Context - Spring 2016 - (Page 18)
BY SALLY HARRISON
Tactical urbanism has been around as long as there have been cities.
The street vendor, the child at play, the graffiti artist, the guerrilla
gardener - all have taken their corner of the city and reinvented
it for their needs. Without self-celebration these urban tacticians
have used the city opportunistically, finding unclaimed space, using
available materials and bending the rules to accommodate needs
unmet by the powers that plan and organize their environment.
Perhaps inspired by these grassroots actions, the tactical urbanism
movement has gained cachet in the design world in recent years. Ad
hoc parks with hammocks, shipping containers and painted pallets,
beer gardens, parking days and dinners in white have proliferated in
the city centers and in hip neighborhoods, offering informal social
gathering places for a young middle class population. Seeing tactical
urbanism's success, a mantra of "quicker, cheaper, lighter" has
been eagerly adopted by developers seeking to promote gentrifying
neighborhoods, and by the public sector looking for effective and
efficient ways to energize underutilized public space.
The impulse to make the city more accessible is certainly laudable
- but for whom? In parts of the city where crime and poverty isolate
residents and erode bonds of community, building a strong public
realm is perhaps a matter of greater urgency. Among designers who
work with underserved communities, there is a keen interest in using
the beneficial aspects of tactical urbanism to jump-start larger social
justice goals that are often embedded in slowly evolving neighborhood
Targeted, short-term spatial interventions can reenergize urban
systems enervated by disinvestment, especially where there is on-theground presence of community organizations that understand
the dynamics of the neighborhood and can provide broad vision.
Several examples of this work in the Philadelphia area illustrate how
"pinpricks of change", as Jaime Lerner would have it, can deftly
penetrate the surface of the complicated problems facing poor
neighborhoods, by expanding the reach of community institutions,
empowering young people as agents of change, and revitalizing
major civic spaces.
SPRING 2016 | context | AIA Philadelphia
Neighborhood children enjoy their new library books in the logan parklet on a quiet afternoon.
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Context - Spring 2016
Equity: The Intersection of Community Development and Design
Innovation: Tactical Urbanism in Underserved Communities
Practice: The Rowhouse: Reimagined and Relevant
Index to Advertisers
Context - Spring 2016