Tactical Urbanism is a term used to describe small-scale urban actions aiming for a long-term impact. Is about looking for improvements in the liveability of cities in a street, block or building scale.
It includes practices that have been made for a long time, but are particularly important in the current situation, in which prevails the need for interventions of low-budget, bottom-up, involving the citizen.
There are many available examples on this type of actions, under many names: “Guerrilla Urbanism”, “Pop-Up Urbanism”, “DIY Urbanism” (Do It Yourself); and materialized in different tactics: Open Streets, Play Streets, Build a Better Block, Park(ing) Day… A highly recommended reading on the subject is the publication “Tactical Urbanism Vol 2” by Mike Lydon, which incorporates many of these actions throughout the U.S., and “Urban Tactics – temporary interventions + long term planning” by Killing Architects.
But in this case I would like to take the concept and, instead of explain it by using examples, analyze its contribution in the current urban planning scene and its role within an Open Source Urbanism.
Many of these actions stay as an anecdote: change the use of a street one day a year, cut traffic to create a car-free space for a weekend, or set up a small park and take it apart within 24 hours. But is specifically in this feature where its innovation lies, these anecdotes are easy to generate and reproduce, with more or less success or greater or lesser impact, but getting something fundamental for the future of the city: to make citizens aware of their spaces, their use and potential, and act on them. And they do it with very few resources.
That is why I think we must be able to extract and apply the concept in a wider field. Would it be possible to implement tactical actions in a long-term urban planning? Being “tactical” makes its application simpler, requires a small investment and can be an interesting test for the final result, giving the project a turning point.
This idea is particularly important in the field of urban projects acting on settled tissues of the city, opening a direct communication with those involved. Being able to try different settings for the public space of a neighbourhood recording the ways in which is used by people, and even create public spaces flexible and changeable. Adding those actions as part of the project from its conception is to speak about a truly Open Source Urbanism, with room for uncertainty, for participation and involvement.
Paraphrasing Jaime Lerner as they do in the publication Tactical Urbanism:
“The planning of a city is a process that allows for corrections; it is supremely arrogant to believe that planning can be done only after every possible variable has been controlled.”