Irreplaceable : A Book Review by Bob Morris

Irreplaceable: How to Create Extraordinary Places That Bring People Together
Kevin Ervin Kelley
Matt Holt Books/An Imprint of BenBella Books (March 2024)

How and why environment affects behavior…and vice versa

According to Kevin Ervin Kelley, “This book is for those who own, manage, design, or inhabit a physical place or human experience as part of their business model or operation. These places include anywhere people convene in the public realm, whether a local grocery store or pub, a religious facility or an office building, a bowling alley or university, or an urban district or zoo. This book is also for parents, teachers, and students wanting to know more about how the environment of a place affects human behavior, social interactions, and our mental health and well-being.”

These are among the passages of greatest interest and value to me, also listed to suggest the nature and scope of Kelley’s coverage:

o The Meaning of Convening (Pages 4-6)
o Place Matters (10-12)
o What a Difference Words Make (25-27)
o Less Work, More Payoff (38-41)
o The Future Lies in Irreplaceable Places (47-48)

o It’s Time to Shift the Balance (78-80)
o Retail as Dream Therapy (85-87)
o The Predictable “Forms and Shapes” of the Built World (91-94)
o Colliding Worlds (96-101)
o “Authenticity” vs. “Mythology” (113-119)

o The Principles of Making a Scene (119-126)
o How to Build Your Own Bonfire (129-132)
o Key questions to prime “observation pumps” (136-142)
o The “dashboard” tool (157-160)
o Embrace Your Seemingly “Impossible” Ideas (170-172)

o Sharpen Your Six “Tips of the Brand Spears” (178-183)
o Use Speed as a Strategy (186-188)
o Place Branding Is Never Done (195-196)
o Eight “Needs” (204-213)
o Architecture as a Social Act (215-219)

I wholly agree with Kelley: “While the Amazons of the world may have a lock on office, variety, and convenience, they don’t have a monopoly on joy, delight, surprise, and social bliss. There’s a massive opportunity for those who design  places, whom I call ‘place-makers,’ and those who fund and run places, whom I call ‘place operators,’ to adopt a new frame of mind and eqip themselves with the right  set of tools for making the crucial places of our society [begin italics] irreplaceable [end italics].”

Obviously, those whom Kevin Ervin Kelley calls ‘place-makers’ and “place operators” will especially appreciate the information,m insights, and counsel he provides that will help them to make many (if not most)  crucial places irreplaceable. I am not in either group. However, I have been — and will continue to be — among the occupants in offices, conference rooms, and auditoriums. Having read and then re-read the book, I feel well-prepared to evaluate these places in terms of appeal, comfort, and functionality.

* * *

In school, college, and then graduate school, I learned more and learned it faster when I discussed material in a group with 3-5 others who were taking the same course. I also recorded key Q&As on 3×5 file cards (based on course material, whatever the subject) with a Q on one side and the A on the other, held together by a thick rubber band. I carried them with me and reviewed the content whenever I had a few minutes to spare.

Here are two other suggestions to keep in mind while reading Irreplaceable: Highlight key passages, and, record your comments, questions, action steps (preferably with deadlines), page references, and lessons you have learned as well as your responses to key points posed within the narrative. Also record your responses to specific questions posed, especially at the conclusion of chapters. cfvor nthoser who design places, wh om I bcall ‘play-makers,’ And those who fund and run places, wh oim I vcall ‘place operators.’ to ad opt a new frame of miund and equip themselves with the right set of tools for making the

These two simple tactics — highlighting and documenting — will facilitate, indeed expedite frequent reviews of key material later.

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