James Rojas | An Island Press Author

James Rojas

James Rojas is an urban planner, community activist, educator, and artist who runs the planning, model-building, and community-outreach practice Place It!. Through Place It!, he has developed an interdisciplinary, community-healing, visioning, and outreach process that uses storytelling, objects, art-production, and play to help improve the urban-planning outreach process. He is now an international expert in public engagement and has traveled around the US, Mexico, Canada, Europe, and South America, facilitating over 500 workshops, and building over 100 interactive models. His research has appeared in the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Dwell, Places, and in numerous books. Relevant areas of expertise include using model-building as a means of community and planning outreach; working with underserved, disadvantaged communities and bringing overlooked voices to the planning discussion; making the physical form of cities relevant to broad audiences; and understanding how immigrants—especially Latino immigrants—see and understand urban and suburban space in the US and why they oftentimes reshape those forms in the ways that they do.

Dream Play Build: Hands-On Community Engagement for Enduring Spaces and Places

An America Walks Webinar

People love their communities and want them to become safer, healthier, more prosperous places. But the standard approach to public meetings somehow makes everyone miserable. Conversations that should be inspiring can become shouting matches. So...

People love their communities and want them to become safer, healthier, more prosperous places. But the standard approach to public meetings somehow makes everyone miserable. Conversations that should be inspiring can become shouting matches. So what would it look like to facilitate truly meaningful discussions between citizens and planners? What if they could be fun?

James Rojas and John Kamp have been changing the norm on community meetings for 20 years and America Walks was honored to have them share their expertise in a webinar! Their new book Dream Play Build explains their unique approach called “Place It!,” which draws on three methods: the interactive model-building workshop, the pop-up, and site exploration using our senses. Dream Play Build offers wisdom distilled from workshops held around the world, and a deep dive into the transformational approach and results from the South Colton community in southern California. While much of the process was developed through in-person meetings, the book also translates the experience to online engagement--how to make people remember their connections beyond the computer screen.

Dream Play Build: Hands On Community Engagement for Enduring Spaces and Places Recording

A Smart Growth Network Webinar
Resources discussed by the panelists Collaborative, sensory-based community engagement for a more equitable bike/pedestrian environment  South Colton livable corridor plan strategies for community resilience  In Phoenix: a light rail station...

Resources discussed by the panelists

  • Collaborative, sensory-based community engagement for a more equitable bike/pedestrian environment 
  • South Colton livable corridor plan strategies for community resilience 
  • In Phoenix: a light rail station designed by and for people with disabilities 
  • To build the communities people really want: talk less, play more 

For two decades, James Rojas and John Kamp have been looking to art, creative expression, and storytelling to shake up the classic community meeting.

They joined the Maryland Department of Planning and the Smart Growth Network to share their insights into building common ground and inviting active participation among diverse groups. Their approach, “Place It!,” documented in their new book Dream Play Build, draws upon three methods: the interactive model-building workshop, the pop-up, and site exploration using the senses.

They offered their lessons learned distilled from workshops held around the world and provided a deep dive into the transformational approach and results from a community in southern California.

Dream Play Build: Hands-On Community Engagement for Enduring Spaces and Places

An ASU Global Institute of Sustainability and Innovation Webinar

For 20 years, James Rojas and John Kamp have been looking to art, creative expression, and storytelling to shake up the classic community meeting....

For 20 years, James Rojas and John Kamp have been looking to art, creative expression, and storytelling to shake up the classic community meeting. In their new book, Dream Play Build, they share their insights into building common ground and inviting active participation among diverse groups. Their approach, “Place It!,” draws upon three methods: the interactive model-building workshop, the pop-up, and site exploration using our senses. In this discussion, they will offer wisdom distilled from workshops held around the world and a deep dive into the transformational approach and results from a community in southern California. Moderated by Deirdre Pfeiffer, associate professor in the ASU School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning, this event is in partnership with Island Press, a nonprofit that shines a spotlight on crucial issues and focuses attention on sustainable solutions.