19 June 2012

"Tactical urbanism" explained

From an interesting article at Salon:
Last week, a press release from Chicago’s Office of the Mayor proclaimed... a plan to get rid of the city’s “excess asphalt.”

It wasn’t a proposal for a big new park or recreational facility, but a plan to take little bits of public space here and there — streets, parking spots, alleyways — and turn them into places for people. It was the latest example of a municipal government taking an active role in tactical urbanism, that low-cost, low-commitment, incremental approach to city building — the “let’s not build a stadium” strategy.

For a long time, tactical urbanism was associated with guerrilla gardeners and fly-by-night pop-up parks, whereas large-scale “city planning” was seen as the job of bureaucrats with blueprints. But more and more often, City Hall is taking a more active (as opposed to purely reactive) role in these types of smaller, cheaper, localized efforts, and sometimes even leading them...

Today, cities have less money but more ways to communicate, two conditions perfectly suited to more focused, low-cost planning. Now you can home in on a specific neighborhood (or even just a few blocks), find out what the residents there want or need, cheaply implement it on a trial basis, and make it permanent if it works...

New York and San Francisco were early adopters, but Ethan Kent, vice president of the nonprofit Project for Public Spaces (PPS), says that until recently, such efforts existed as “a cool trend, but not the paradigm shift” that’s now transforming official policy...

“This isn’t just hanging flower baskets. It’s enabling communities to showcase their identity in the public realm.”


  1. Thanks for the post. Could you provide a link to your source? I'm interested in seeing the press release but cannot find it on the City of Chicago website.

    1. My source was the Salon story (linked). Perhaps you can backtrack from there. Or perhaps Google "excess asphalt" + "rahm emanuel" "press release."


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