Changing the Commons, Stories About Placemaking

The intense social and environmental fervor that arose in the 1960s and 1970s in response to assaults on the planet’s life support systems, degradation of communities, and socio-economic inequality unleashed revolutionary change at all levels of society. Out of the turmoil of that era, community-based ecological design emerged as a powerful creative force for reshaping the commons, bringing people together, and forming ecologically sustainable relationships with the environment.

The stories in this book reveal how the revolution has played out in reconceiving public places in the landscape of every-day life in northern California. The text focuses on the broad human, social, environmental, and cultural aspects of place-making to create livable, inclusive, sustainable, and treasured spaces. The aesthetic experience of each place is revealed through photos, diagrams, sketches, and plans. Success stories like these offer hope, so sorely needed, for dealing with the seemingly insurmountable current assaults on earth’s life support systems.

The book reveals how places within some of the country’s most iconic public landscapes-like Yosemite Valley, Muir Woods National Monument, Redwood State and National Parks, and Crissy Field-have been changed to create a new balance between the built and natural environments. This book will prove to be a valuable resource for environmental design students and faculty, fellow design and planning professionals, agency staff, and the general public interested in learning why familiar places are what they are, who and what the designs are intended to serve, and how the goals for places have been achieved.


John N. Roberts, founder of the landscape architecture firm John Northmore Roberts & Associates, Inc. is widely recognized for community-based ecological design for local communities and national parks alike. He is a Beatrix Farrand Distinguished Visiting Lecturer in U.C. Berkeley’s College of Environmental Design.

Book Design & Infographics

Daniela Peña Corvillón and Camila Undurraga Puelma.

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