Uneven Growth: Tactical Urbanisms for Expanded Megacities


As the third part of the series “Issues in Contemporary Architecture”, curated by Pedro Gadanho, last November 22nd opened at the Museum of Modern Art in New York the Exhibition “Uneven Growth: Tactical Urbanism for Expanding Megacities”.

The name of the exhibition attracted my interest from the first moment; since seeing an institution like the MoMA using the term “tactical urbanism” is an indicative on the impact that this kind of proposals are currently having in the architectural scene.

My interest grew when I knew what the exhibition was showcasing: A 14-month initiative in which six interdisciplinary teams of researchers and practitioners were brought together to examine new architectural possibilities for six megacities: Hong Kong, Istanbul, Lagos, Mumbai, New York City, and Rio de Janeiro. The teams were made of two offices, a local one and an outer one; resulting in what seems a really interesting premise for an experiment of this kind.

The exhibition occupies one of the Architecture and Design Galleries in the third floor, and features the following projects: MUMBAI (URBZ/Ensamble Studio/MIT-POPlab), HONG KONG (MAP Office/Network Architecture Lab), NEW YORK (SITU Studio/Cohabitation Strategies), LAGOS (NLÉ/Inteligencias Colectivas), RIO DE JANEIRO (RUA Arquitectos/MAS Urban Design) and ISTANBUL (Superpool/Atelier d’Architecture Autogérée)

The decision of confronting the concept of Tactical Urbanism with Expanding Megacities is a success of the exhibition, since it raises very important questions on the role that Tactical Strategies are playing in the evolution of big cities. Thousands of examples have been published on tactical interventions, most of them acting in small spaces for a small period of time. As I argued previously in this blog, Would it be possible to extend it to a wider scale?; To a broader time-frame?; To the scale of a Mega city? What are the extents of what we know as “Tactical”? Could it mean in itself a strategy for change or is it a stage within an urban process? 

Tens of questions pop up in my head without even getting into the details of each location showed in the exhibition, and I consider that as another success. I am glad to see an institution like MoMA giving space to this kind of proposals, since it helps not only its diffusion, but also takes part in its definitions along the way.

As per the projects, I won´t get into specific of which is which (I leave that to you, visitor), but you can find a wide spectrum of outcomes. As per the teams, you can see collaborations that have acted as being just one team without differences, teams that have preserved their individuality but working in different aspects of a problem complementing each other, and teams that directly worked in separated proposals.

The same happens when you take a look at the variety of local and international offices selected, where you find some of them that are really connected with the problems of the site in an almost personal level and some of them took distance to look at those problems (that deal from housing, density, water, energy, transport…) resulting in projects with an more utopic approach.

In any case is very interesting seeing the different approaches to the idea of “tactical” applied to Mega Cities, and the results of it. From urban furniture to entire new-land islands, from purely design artifacts to approaches that step into fields as economics or social science, the exhibition also shows the state of experimentalism of this kind of approaches as a consequences of never have been really applied into real world big-scale projects.

It was also great to see the team of URBZ and their work in Mumbai, previously featured in this blog, amongst the teams selected.

The exhibition is part of a bigger project on Tactical approaches, supplemented by a publication and a website where you can find all the information on the projects featured and submit your own post on Tactical Urbanism.

A highly recommended exhibition, with a wide scope of proposals for the visitor to explore and take part on the discussion which, as it happened to me when I visited with some colleagues, can get to be deeply engaging.

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