Tag Archives: Tactical Urbanism

Making Extra Pavement into Plazas

For those of you in the northeast U.S., go take a short walk around your neighborhood while the snow is still on the ground. This is a simple way to see all the extra pavement that is consuming valuable land in your neighborhood. Wouldn’t it be great if this left over asphalt could be made into public space? We think it would be great and have launched an effort, Pavementtoplazas.com, to help metro Boston make these opportunity sites more visible. We’d love to hear from you and please do submit any of the sites you happen to find in your neighborhood here.

The Pavement to Plazas project is based on the tactic summarized in Tactical Urbanism Vol. 2 as:

To reclaim underutilized asphalt as public space without large capital expenditure. These installation are usually pilot projects that are used to test possible longer term improvements. We think the Boston region has a lot of extra asphalt that could be better used as public space.

If you are interested in learning more about how cities are utilizing the Pavement to Plazas tactic check out San Francisco, New York and, the recently launched, LA effort. Principle Group is also working with the City of Somerville on a pilot plaza that we hope to have open this Spring. Join the Pavement to Plazas mailing list to keep up on news about that project and other effort to reclaim public space for people.

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Thanks Mayor Curtatone and to everyone who came out last Thursday for the screening of The Human Scale. There was just under 900 people (!) at the show. Big thanks to the Somerville Theatre as well for putting on a great event.

Contemporary Use of Public Space Panel Discussion

OCCUPIED_BSAThe Boston Society of Architects is holding a panel discussion on the contemporary use of public space. I’ll be presenting some of my recent work, and participating in the panel with a great group of people. A big thanks to Janne Corneil and David Glick for organizing this discussion. If you are in the Boston area and interested in Tactical Urbanism I hope you can attend. Here are the details:

“Occupied: Contemporary Use of Public Space”
Boston Society of Architects
March 21, 2013
6:30 – 8:30 PM


Placecraft: The Art of Shaping the Built Environment to Create Value

This term, Placecraft, is new. My friend Jen Krouse coined it while producing a month long planning event Imagining North Adams that is happening now. I need to thank Jen for asking me to participate in, as far as I know, the first Placecraft Summit happening this Friday in North Adams. She has defined the term as:

Placecraft = the careful art of shaping the built environment to create value, strengthen community, and protect the ecosystem. The term encompasses like-minded movements such as Placemaking, Smart Growth, and New Urbanism, among others.

I have been looking forward to this event because it is opening up the dialogue for how we can go about crafting great places. This is very much linked the Tactical Urbanism effort currently underway. There are several questions that keep coming up for me that I hope to discuss while in North Adams:

  1. How does local culture inform the building of authentic places?
  2. What role does the public have in the building of authentic places?
  3. More importantly, what role should the public not play?
  4. And, since we’ll be near Mass MoCa, what role should art have in the shaping of our towns and cities?

This month long series of events and Tactical Urbanism installations is a wonderful model for smaller towns and cities to explore for how to move big planning ideas forward. North Adams is very lucky to have Jen volunteering her time to make this all happen. If you are looking for a reason to visit the Berkshire Mountains stop by the Placecraft Summit or the Tactical Urbanism Salon this weekend.

Image Credit: Imagining North Adams Facebook Page


Tactical Urbanism: The Official Guide Now Available

After many months of work, the 2nd edition of Tactical Urbanism is complete. A big thanks to Mike Lydon for inviting me to contribute to the effort. If you have an interest in placemaking or improving your community I would recommend you give a few of these tactics a try. The Atlantic Monthly summarized the wisdom collected in this guide nicely:

The tactics in the guide are those that have gone through this process. They’ve had enough iterations in sometimes very different places to know what works and how to maneuver through the realities of municipal governance to make something stick.

If your community is in the process of deploying some Tactical Urbanism please let me know in the comments. Work on the 3rd edition is already underway.

I would also like to thank Ellen Dunham-Jones for bringing me down to Georgia Tech as a guest critic. The work I saw from the Tech architecture students was inspirational. Ellen’s studio focused on helping Lethonia, a small town East of Atlanta, with their redevelopment plans. What was exceptional about the studio’s approach to this task was that they crafted not only a long term, visionary, proposal for the town, but also implemented several Tactical Urbanism interventions. The resulting excitement from tactics are captured in the video above. This effort has confirmed my assumption that long term plans are more believable if they are coupled with short term action.

Jan Gehl’s Incremental Approach to Urbanism

My ongoing study of how best to design the human habitat has been consumed by the research of Jan Gehl. I am pleased that the CNU will be hosting him for a keynote lecture at CNU20. If you have not picked up a copy of his latest book, Cities for People, I highly recommend you give it a read.

In the film above, Mr. Gehl mentions the importance of Copenhagen incremental approach to the city’s public space improvements. Planners should find it particularly important to note that a master plan would have never been able to get the city to where it is today, and that it was the slow build up of small projects that allowed a greater vision to be created. Perhaps this is the best approach to 21st century city building? Lighter, quicker, cheaper, and, overtime, better.

The emerging Tactical Urbanism discussion can certainly learn from Copenhagen’s story.

Tactical Urbanism

Tactical Urbanism Final

What do street fairs, pop-up retail and chair bombing all have in common? They are low cost, high impact “tactics” for improving a neighborhood. Every city planner, developer or active citizen should start to think about how they can execute short term experiments that help build momentum for a project, change the perception of a place or energize support for bigger plans in your community. We have started doing this in Providence, and I plan to write about them in the coming weeks under the new topic of “Tactical Urbanism”.

My friend Mike Lydon defines Tactical Urbanism over at Pattern Cities as:

– A deliberate, phased approach to instigating change;
– The offering of local solutions for local planning challenges;
– Short-term commitment and realistic expectations;
– Low-risks, with a possibly a high reward; and
– The development of social capital between citizens and the building of organizational capacity between public-private institutions, non-profits, and their constituents.

For more info on this emerging set of tools you can download the report here, read about the idea here, here, and here. Hope you are enjoying your weekend, and, perhaps, heading out to enjoy a Pop-Up Cafe or an Open Street.