A tactical approach or jugaad in Hindi refers to using limited resources and small scale actions that can serve to bring about a significant change innovatively and frugally. While concerning cities, tactical urbanism is about using the short term as well as low-cost approaches that can aid in neighbourhood building in its true essence. In city planning, both strategies in the form of a master plan and tactics that proactively address the gap between a bottom-up and top-down processes of design within a project are equally integral.
Tactical urbanism is useful in creating an environment that can respond in entirety to the users of the specific urban precinct. It makes the process more dynamic as it breaks away from the ‘design-present-defend’ method of a proposal by a planner and allows testing an implementation before carrying out a project.
A tool for engaging public
Tactical urbanism is a tool in the urban development processes that can assist in bridging the gap between the developers and users of the space. Instead of calling the community to the town hall and making them a part of the process, this approach allows implementation at an initial stage that makes them understand it better. It induces some excitement amongst the stakeholders, truly making them a part of the process. Also, in case the project does not perform well, it allows some flexibility to redirect the funds into understanding what went wrong and further into future projects. The approach is about building a responsive neighbourhood.
Tactical Urbanism as DIY Urbanism
DIY or do-it-yourself Urbanism, as the name suggests, consists of user-generated solutions that they implement in their immediate environment. The intervention may be an expression of an individual or the whole community. Even though they are DIY, at times, tactical urbanism projects are initiated and financed by the government. However, unlike other government-sanctioned projects; the people involved in the process become ‘do tanks’ in contrast to the ‘think tanks’.
After the success of one project, several other neighbourhoods gradually follow the same procedure to integrate the DIY intervention. Although the changes take place in the public environment, one cannot distinguish if it were a project sanctioned by the government or the community initiated it.
Making a city walkable through tactical urbanism
The presence of walkable and humane streets certainly make a neighbourhood more desirable. It is the walkability as a characteristic that can make people prefer walking. With an option always available of comfortably driving down to the destination, it is extremely difficult to make people reconsider to walk down even a small distance. The design and planning movement – New Urbanism also aimed at making our neighbourhoods walkable and reduce the dependency on cars. The ideal designs in the twenty-first century have been about having a human-centric approach and inviting them to walk.
A tactical urbanism project, “Walk Raleigh” that was initiated in 2012, as a well-documented intervention. It aimed at making people consider walking over opting for motor vehicles. The implementation process included placing inexpensive guerrilla wayfinding signs on street lamps and tree trunks. A total of 27 such signages were installed at different points in the city communicating the number of minutes one would have to walk to reach the landmarks, against the preconceived proclivity to travel by motorized transport. This piece of civic technology had a QR code to see how many were interacting with those signs. The tool generated is one built by the people, for the people and exemplifies radical connectivity.
Accessible Neighbourhoods using tactile surfaces
Design caters to the community as a whole. By adding tactile elements in the urban environment, it can be made suitable for the handicapped. If we integrate our neighbourhoods with these tactile surfaces, then the public involvement can increase even further. The way our streets have enabled such comfortable movement for cars, they should accommodate wheelchair users as well as the visually impaired in a similar fashion. These surfaces are essential for ease of navigation and remove all unseen barriers from the physical space.
There is a variety of different types of tactile paving that indicates different meanings for the disabled to understand. There are extrusions made on the surface of the tiles that follow a specific pattern indicating what is to be done when a person is on that tile. Furthermore, hazard warning tiles warn them of hazards. Once the pedestrian paths have been planned, these tiles are an additional feature. The tile paving uses rubber as material such that it can be installed in less time and has better execution. Tactile surfaces are a cost-effective solution, used in place of the bigger-scale interventions such as adding ramps, wider corridors etc.
“Change is the only constant.” – Heraclitus
In the field of architecture, approaching a city design by spending years on the master planning processes further requires it to be broken down into smaller projects that can be taken up with a relatively bottom-up approach. Even after its implementation, it is only half the battle won since there is an integration of the tactical initiatives that co-develop a neighbourhood. In the ever-evolving world, tactical urbanism is a response to the conventional city-building processes.