“First life, then spaces, then buildings. The other way around never works.” – Jan Gehl

What is Tactical Urbanism?

Urban planners use the term “tactical urbanism” frequently. The term tactical urbanism refers to a rapid and low-cost and scalable approach to making temporary changes to the urban environment, often in urban gathering areas. The process combines a development process with social interaction. It is also known as DIY urbanism, Urban Acupuncture, Guerrilla Urbanism, Pop-up Urbanism, or Urban prototyping.

 

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New York’s Times Square transformation_©NACTO-GDCI

Tactical urbanism can, however, take many forms: there is no unified definition that places it within the broader context of urban planning.

Anthony Garcia and Mike Lydon, the authors of the book Tactical Urbanism: Short-term Action for Long-term Change, clearly explain what tactical urbanism is. The author defines it as an approach to neighborhood building and activation using short-term, low-cost, and scalable interventions and policies. As defined by The Street Plans Collaborative, tactical urbanism consists of five characteristics: (Lydon, M. and Garcia, A., 2015)

  1. A deliberate phased approach to instigating change;
  2. Local solutions to local planning challenges;
  3. A short-term commitment to a longer-term change;
  4. Potentially high rewards, low risk; and
  5. The building of social capital and organizational capacity between citizens, public and private institutions, and nonprofits.
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Covid test facility in Gujarat_©images.livemint.com/img/2021/04/14/1600×900/rtpcrtesrtani_1618395182038_1618395188960.jpg

An example is a temporary tent that was used in many Indian cities during the pandemic to test for Coronavirus. They are inexpensive, easy to implement and provide a short-term solution. Government, non-governmental organizations, or residents can all contribute to enhancing the vibrancy of a place based on the intended outcome. Tactical urbanism refers to the development of a variety of approaches and initiatives at different types of properties. Indian cities are embracing this concept. The last few decades have seen a shift in urban planning from being primarily geared toward automobiles to being more human-centric. 

Why Tactical Urbanism?

A recent year has shown a significant change in dealing at the individual level and societal level. The era of a pandemic has shown big unpreparedness in managing the spaces. Indian cities have seen a challenge due to the high population and diverse socio-economic groups. The phenomena of social distance and confinement have become difficult in these times.

The vacant lands, unorganized storefronts, highway underpasses, parking spaces, and other unutilized spaces, remains highly evident. Tactical urbanism let individuals or government officials use this as experimentation, which often led to innovative creations. The use of tactical urbanism has the potential to inspire progress in place-making. It allows public participation who are the end-users. Citizens can physically feel the alternative option, as they are easy to execute.

Pros and Cons of Tactical Urbanism

Advantages of Tactical Urbanism

  • Tactical Urbanism refers to the changes at the local level. It can display the values of the culture and the quality of social life can be uplifted.
  • It engages with various stakeholders, communities, key experts, etc.
  • It is often a small-scale and short-term project, so the documentation and the progress tracking are convenient.
  • Execution of the same design or the Scaling up of the design is possible
  • Most interventions are accessible for different classes of people.
  • Cities often have a mix of cultures and ethnicities, so the ideas can be expressed in several ways in the neighborhoods.

Disadvantages of Tactical Urbanism

  • Incorporating new activities may arise new challenges in crowded urban areas
  • Short-term changes on a local level and Long-term planning may contradict each other and can result in unwanted developments.

Example of Tactical Urbanism in India

Indian cities are undergoing a major transformation as urban planners and authorities redesign urban infrastructure to be more useful and accessible to citizens. Public bike share systems in some cities in India, redesigning the streets in Bangalore, redesigning public spaces in many cities, are a few of the examples from India. Ahmedabad, Mumbai, Pune, and Bhubaneshwar are cities where the spaces have been re-conceived focusing on people and their safety. Indian tactical urbanism examples are presented here.

  • HP Junction, Mumbai
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Tactical urbanism at Mumbai intersection_©Saurabh Jain/WRI

The roads were redesigned using very simple tools – traffic cones and paint – aiming to improve pedestrian safety.  

  • Rupali Square, Bhubaneswar
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Rupali Square_©wri-india.org/sites/default/files/RS2.jpg

To make Rupali Square a safe place for pedestrians to cross, for cars to maneuver, and for people to enjoy, participants were encouraged to draw over existing maps of the intersection. As part of a hands-on workshop, participants were guided through elements of smart city design, with an emphasis on how to make streets safe from a child’s perspective.

  • Happy Street, Law Garden
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Intervention at Happy Street, Law Garden_©www.gujaratheadline.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/happy-street-new-look-by-amc.jpg

 

  • Dhal ni Pol, Ahmedabad
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Dhal ni Pol_©Javed Raja

Mahila Housing Trust (MHT) has helped revamp a 250-meter stretch of the pol as part of the community-centric pilot project. It repaired building facades and heritage structures, installed street lighting, and organized parking lots.

  • Vidya Bhawan, Udaipur
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Vidya Bhawan_©pbs.twimg.com/media/EZ-Qo6aUcAEKcCz.jpg

Utilizing creative design & painting on the road to reduce the speed of vehicles outside the school.

  • MDU Gate No.1, Rohtak.
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Pre and post intervention at MDU gate no.1, Rohtak _©WRI India

A variety of stakeholders were surveyed, including residents, officials, and traffic police, and conflict studies were conducted after detailed designs were prepared.

  • Big Bazaar Road, Coimbatore
Big Bazaar Road, Coimbatore_©sutp.org/wp-content/uploads/5.-A-birds-eye-view-of-the-tactical-urbanism-at-Clock-tower-junction-800×454.jpg

The big bazaar road in Coimbatore is one of the busiest roads in the city. As part of the tactical urbanism exercise, people lined up geometrical shapes on the road and then painted bright colors along with lane dividers and traffic islands.

Urban planners can use tactical urbanism in their practices before committing to long-term projects. By using temporary projects, planners can observe interventions on the ground and make changes, and they can engage citizens in the planning process.

References:

  1. Articles and Books

Lydon, M. and Garcia, A., 2015. A tactical urbanism how-to. In Tactical urbanism (pp. 171-208). Island Press, Washington, DC.

  1. Online sources

Global Designing Cities Initiative. 2021. From Pop-Up to Permanent: Five lessons in tactical urbanism | Global Designing Cities Initiative. [online] Available at: <https://globaldesigningcities.org/2018/04/18/from-pop-up-to-permanent-five-lessons-in-tactical-urbanism/> [Accessed 26 November 2021].

Itdp.in. 2021. Tactical Urbanism Archives -. [online] Available at: <https://www.itdp.in/tag/tactical-urbanism/> [Accessed 26 November 2021].

Tacticalurbanismguide.com. 2021. Tactical Urbanism. [online] Available at: <http://tacticalurbanismguide.com/about/> [Accessed 26 November 2021].

Parcitypatory.org. 2021. Tactical Urbanism: Creating Long-Term Change in Cities Through Short-Term Interventions – parCitypatory. [online] Available at: <https://parcitypatory.org/2020/07/31/tactical-urbanism/> [Accessed 26 November 2021].

Cspmgroup.com. 2021. What is Tactical Urbanism | CSPM Group. [online] Available at: <https://cspmgroup.com/tacticalurbanism/> [Accessed 26 November 2021].

WRI INDIA. 2021. How Tactical Urbanism Can Improve Road Safety. [online] Available at: <https://wri-india.org/blog/how-tactical-urbanism-can-improve-road-safety> [Accessed 26 November 2021].

Author

Kishan Thakkar is an architect based in Ahmedabad exploring creative outlets and entrepreneurship. He is an avid learner who has a penchant for research, analysis and understanding different fields within the architecture and aspires to promote sustainable development. Discipline is the key to balance his diversified interest and work routine.

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