AMuse: placemaker Mare Santema

Every year in June, the AMuse magazine is released; the magazine of AM about placemaking. Inspiring and informative. For anyone interested in placemaking and everything that goes with it. With special placemakers, intriguing interviews, captivating stories, the latest news in the field of placemaking, and much more. In the run-up to the new edition, we publish 'AMuse; placemakers in their own words' monthly. This time: Mare Santema.

Occupation: Co-founder and director of Usespace
Age: 26
Proud of: That within half a year, we managed to provide more than a thousand people with a place in otherwise unused spaces.
Key in placemaking is… not only experimenting with creative business models in temporary situations but also making space available for them in permanent situations.

Placemaking pays off

"I studied architecture at the Delft University of Technology and graduated with a research on the financial value of placemaking. This research revealed that all stakeholders involved found that there was an above-average increase in value of five to ten percent when placemaking was present or had taken place in an area. This includes increases in land prices, property values, and commercial rental prices."

Life purpose

"During this research, I noticed how much space in the city is available but not shared with people who could add significant value to an area. That's precisely what placemakers do: they develop creative initiatives and strengthen social cohesion. This, in turn, increases the financial value of an area. I thought to myself: this will be my life purpose. I want to bridge the gap between the commercial and socio-cultural sectors by better utilizing space. These two worlds currently don't connect well with each other."

In a flash

"It started with the flash delivery company Geitr, which had covered all the windows of their dark stores with stickers. I knew this would eventually cause problems. And indeed, it later happened with many flash delivery companies. So, I called them to say they really needed to do something about it. They completely agreed. Consequently, I was allowed to set up a project where I transformed their windows into art galleries."


"For the project, I searched for local, mostly young artists. Because many young artists fall into a gap as soon as they graduate from art school. In the windows of Geitr, they got a platform. It worked out really well. For Geitr, the artists, and the neighborhood. Geitr improved its image, the artists sold their work, and the neighborhood was enthusiastic."

Dual use

"After that, I co-founded Usespace with design studio D/Dock. Because there are many more buildings that don't make good use of their space. I find that a waste. Additionally, the gap in the city is getting wider. Space is a great tool to bring people closer together. I really see that happening. By using spaces for dual or even triple purposes, a lot of cross-pollination occurs and all kinds of new relationships are formed. It connects tremendously."

Welcome to the future

"We want to start a movement in the world of people who realize that it is better in every respect to share spaces with each other, and the demand for flexibly designed buildings is rising. Because it not only offers financial, social, and societal benefits, it is also incredibly sustainable. Our ultimate goal is to develop and design these so-called blended venues ourselves in the future."