is the art of giving visual coherence and organization to the collage
of buildings, streets, and spaces that make up the urban environment.
Since its incorporation in 1979, The Townscape Institute, a not-for-profit
public interest planning organization in Cambridge, Massachusetts, has
utilized this concept to improve both the legibility and the livability
of cities, towns, and neighborhoods. The Institute's range of endeavors
supports the townscape notion that the whole can become more than simply
the sum of its parts. Through advocacy for visual enhancement of the
built environment and projects combining public art and urban design,
The Townscape Institute affirms, enhances, and reveals a sense of place.
The Institute's president and staff have worked
in over one hundred communities and ten countries with a practice that
includes consulting, advocacy, education, and the execution of design
work. The Institute's projects seek to reveal "place meaning"
and thus to encourage a sense of proprietorship toward locale which
can nourish a positive ethic for the built environment. To achieve this
goal, The Townscape Institute develops strategies that strengthen people's
claim to their own environs by fostering mental associations to them.
Such projects include Main Street revitalization efforts, cultural identity
programs including plaques and computer software, and the commissioning
of public art and artisanry.
The Townscape Institute
has been involved with conservation and visual enhancement of the built
environment for over 35 years. It worked to evaluate many historic
and scenic sites across America and has collected much additional material
in the course of preparing its video and traveling exhibit on threatened
American cultural landscapes entitled "What So Proudly We Hailed."
As a result, Townscape has collected over sixty thousand catalogued
slides, one of the most comprehensive collections in the country on
the issues of contextual design, urban amenities, and historic preservation.
In addition, the Townscape Institute has a library of over six thousand
volumes, which includes hundreds of local histories that aid the research
process, as well as cameras, video cameras, and extensive computer hardware
and software. The library is open to visitors by appointment. Through
public art planning charrettes, place making strategies, conceptual
design, consulting, research, analysis and administration, The Townscape
Institute has been involved in all stages of townscape design.
One of the Institute's
most ambitious projects, the Radnor Gateways Enhancement
Strategy, won the Environmental Design Research Association and
Places Magazine award for design in 1998. For more information
about The Townscape Institutes projects, see the projects
To stimulate a
broader interest in place meaning and making, The Townscape Institute
fosters the development of educational publications; books and posters,
exhibitions and videos , that illustrate how buildings, spaces, and
objects can reinforce identification with place. Publications have always
been integral to The Townscape Institute's advocacy role. In addition
to Placemakers, the Institute published two other books as part
of the trilogy The Power of Place: Towards an Ethic for the Built
Environment. The influential series was nominated for a Pulitzer
Prize by the Massachusetts Historical Society in 1982. Townscape continues
to write and publish books and articles. The Art of Place Making:
Public Art, Interpretation and Urban Design That Tell You Where You
Are is currently being completed, several chapters already having
been published in Places Magazine and through Scenic America.
For more information and a complete listing of Townscape Publications,
see the publications page.
most recent publication, a technical handbook entitled Saving Face:
How Corporate Franchise Design Can Respect Community Identity, was
published by the American Planning Association in August 1994, with
a revised and expanded edition in 2002. This work uses over 100 color
photos to illustrate case studies of communities that have successfully
persuaded fast food and gasoline franchises to moderate their designs
in ways that respect local contexts.
Ronald Lee Fleming,
president of The Townscape Institute, has worked with national, state
and local public interest organizations as a design advocate, practitioner
and educator for more than 35 years. He was one of the initiators
the national "Main Street" movement, a program that coordinates
the efforts of property owners and merchants to revitalize downtown
areas through an awareness of and respect for community character. As
the founding chairman of the Cambridge Arts Council, he made the initial
contacts with the Department of Transportation which resulted in the
innovative Arts of the Line program that generated more than a million
dollars for arts commissions on the MBTA system. He is currently an
active board member of the Trustees of Reservations, Scenic America,
and the Public Policy Committee of the Preservation Society for Newport
County. He is the head of the Historic Towns Committee of US International
Council on Monuments and Sites, and a principal in the Good Neighbor
Policy partnership through the National Trust. He was also the Governor's
Appointee to the Massachusetts Historical Commission from 1986 to 1990,
and is a former trustee of the Society for the Preservation of New England
Antiquities and the Victorian Society, among others.
Mr. Fleming has
been featured as a speaker at the annual meetings of the National Trust
for Historic Preservation and the American Planning Association. In
1995 he was the keynote speaker at the first Main Street conference
in Australia; at a conference sponsored by Signs of the Times Magazine,
a trade publication for the advertising industry; and at a conference
sponsored by the Sign Foundation, an intellectual "think tank"
for the billboard industry. He was also invited to give a series of
presentations on corporate franchise design alternatives before HRH
the Prince of Wales's Business in the Community Conferences in Charleston,
South Carolina, and London. He received his Master's Degree in City
Planning from Harvard University and is a member of the American Institute
of City Planners. His experience and communication skills qualify him
to mediate between preservation groups and multi-national corporations.
The Townscape Institute
is currently accepting new projects.
Mr. Fleming is uniquely qualified to take on a variety of place making
planning endeavors, including public art planning charrettes, conceptual
design, place making plans and urban design. Mr. Fleming is also available
for consulting and speaking engagements pertaining to design review,
corporate visual policy, place making design, proprietorship of public
spaces, Main Street revitalization, interpretation, place making street
furniture and urban design elements based on the Institutes nationwide
research on these topics for an upcoming book.
us for more information.