Urban Magnet Theory

The foundation of Urban Magnet Theory is two observations

  • 1) People – The difference between a place that feels “alive” and one that feels “dead” is the presence of people doing things; and
  • 2) Place – Rarely (maybe never) in history has “nice physical form” been solely successful at truly revitalizing a community.

Unfortunately, the planning, design and development community have become obsessed with “form”.  However, the real reason for a successful place is “people” and therefore planners, designers and developers need to start with “people” first in their work.  The form is intended to be a supportive vessel for urban life – it needs to both accommodate the desired activities and have a character deemed attractive to the core activity group.

People are different so what does it mean to focus on attracting and keeping people’s interest and presence? And which people?

Urban Magnets are focused on “activity-oriented subcultures”  – small groups who have share a love of a specific activity topic and like to engage in that and related activities in a public or semi-public manner.   For instance:

  • “Foodies” love to gather for food-related events.
  • Motorcycle enthusiasts will gather for events that profile motorcycles.
  • Rock climbers will gather to engage in rock-climbing related events.
  • Skateboarders will gather for events and competitions.
  • Car enthusiasts will gather from far for a ‘show and shine’.
  • Etc…

When these groups gather to do what they love in a visible way, the rest of us gather around and watch (the gawking principle) – and then are possibly inspired to engage ourselves.  Regardless, we leave having watched real life unfold enthusiastically in front of us feeling more connected to our city and more alive.

What activity subcultures do you belong to?

Can you imagine a special place in your city that is all about your activity subculture?