The Main Points
The book Tactical Urbanism 2: Short-Term Action, Long-Term Change is concerned with the implementation of an approach to organization of the urban space which has gained the name of “tactical urbanism.” This approach can be characterized by five main features:
- an intentional, step-by-step inciting of changes in the urban space;
- the utilization of ideas aimed at the transformation of space that were offered by local rather than central entities;
- the employment of actions aimed at reaching short-term, realistic goals;
- the decrease in risks connected to the changes in city space, which is combined with possibly greater benefits;
- the advancement of social capital among the dwellers of the space that is to be transformed, and the creation of organizational networks between both public and private institutions, non-profit and non-governmental organizations, and their elements (Lydon et al. 1-2).
On the whole, it can be summarized that the approach proposes to use the resources of the local residents and organizations in order to create locally-based entities (usually non-institutionalized ones, without rigid structure and with flexible elements, such as grassroots networks) aimed at changing the urban space by carrying out transformations proposed by the members of these entities. The entities should offer sustainable transformations that would be realistic and could be carried out by only using the efforts of these entities; that is, the entities should be self-sufficient.
The Short- and Long-Term Goals of Tactical Urbanism
The short-term goals
In the short term, the tactical urbanism is aimed at the implementation of relatively small-scale projects and ideas which would result in a positive change in the urban space. These projects may be aimed at promoting new (or old, but currently neglected) ideas of the space’s organization, or testing ideas by transforming the space temporarily.
The scale of the projects depends on what kind of participants the entity which carries out the ideas is comprised of; for instance, if the entity consists of activists – local dwellers and participants of non-profit/non-governmental organizations, it is likely that they would not have a significant budget, and could only carry out semi-legal activities such as Ad-Busting or Weed-Bombing (Lydon et al. 33, 36); on the other hand, including local businesses and governmental organizations may allow for the implementation of more costly projects, such as Build a Better Block (Lydon et al. 13).
The long-term goals
In the long term, the tactical urbanism is aimed at economizing resources by rejecting transformations which proved to be ineffectual or unpopular, and making permanent the changes which proved worthwhile whilst they were implemented in the short term. Another goal is to promote the ideas that are currently inconsistent with e.g. legal requirements, but could prove effectual should they be carried out.
For instance, in the U.S., the Ad-Busting activists are known to combat the utilization of public space as the space for commerce and advertising. Whereas the advertising is often compliant with the legal requirements, the Ad-Busting activities may give a signal to the local authorities to make the public space free of the commerce. In fact, in certain cities, such as São Paulo (Brazil), advertising is known to have been banned (Lydon et al. 33); the promotion of similar regulations might be conducted in other places.
The Reasons for the “Tactical” Part of the “Tactical Urbanism” Term
The tactical urbanism method is labeled “tactical” due to the fact that it is mostly aimed at the implementation of short-term goals, and offers methods which, in most cases, change the city space here and now. It does not involve large-scale, long-term strategic projects like the building of houses, city blocks, and other activities which should be planned ahead for decades. Instead, it aims to transform the space between the existing major elements of cityscape, making it more comfortable for living. Even the long-term goals of tactical urbanism often propose relatively minor (even though significant) changes in the city space.
How Would Tactical Urbanism Work in New Orleans, Louisiana?
Tactical urbanism could work in some areas of New Orleans, Louisiana, but not in the whole city. It is important to stress that this city is highly urbanized, and that large numbers of people live in a relatively small area. In the central part of the city, there are fewer opportunities to implement the ideas of tactical urbanism than in the areas where there is a larger amount of free, unused space. Some tactics such as Pavements to Plazas or Pavements to Parks might be employed in residential areas, whereas Informal Bike Parking can be utilized in business areas (Lydon et al. 19-20, 30).
In Which Areas Would Tactical Urbanism Work Well, and in Which Ones – Badly?
It is possible to state that tactical urbanism would work best in areas where there is relatively much unused, poorly used, or misused space. For instance, it can be utilized on large plazas or squares where it is possible to carry out minor transformations and shifts of the existing elements of the place to make it freer and more people-friendly; or in residential areas, where green wedges can be promoted; or in business centers, where there are large parking areas which are empty during the weekend.
In addition, the American cities are known to be overloaded with cars (Week 9, Lec 25). Thus, it is possible to employ tactical urbanism in large cities to promote car-free zones for pedestrians and reduce the car pollution; it might be aimed at the introduction of a ban of cars and the promotion of bicycles and public transport. Also, in the situations when the different institutions responsible for the organization of the public space coordinate poorly, the cityscape can be utilized badly (Week 9, Lec 26); in this situation, it is also possible to employ tactical urbanism so as to close the gaps caused by the poor coordination, and perhaps to increase the degree of collaboration between the organizations.
On the other hand, tactical urbanism might work less effectively in crumpled places where there is a significant dearth of space. For instance, the streets of Manhattan, where most buildings are skyscrapers, where there are numerous people and cars, and every single bit of space is utilized (and where, e.g., the ban on cars would lead to severe damage to the industries), the use of tactical urbanism might prove ineffectual. However, some ideas (such as Micromixing (Lydon et al. 39)) might work effectively in some parts of these areas as well.
Ideas for the Use of Tactical Urbanism in New Orleans, Louisiana
It is possible to employ the methods of tactical urbanism in the city of New Orleans. For instance, one of the city’s districts that might use this is the downtown area of the city. Even in spite of the fact that this is a business area in which, for example, there are skyscrapers, and space is often lacking, it is possible to use some tactics here. For example, some parts of the sidewalks might be utilized in order to introduce temporary green spaces to the place, e.g., by turning to such methods as Parkmobiles (Lydon et al. 36); however, it could perhaps only be employed during the weekends.
On the other hand, since there are also low buildings in this part of the city, and most of them have flat roofs, it might be offered to employ these roofs in order to create some green plantations. Clearly, it is paramount to make sure that the roofs will be capable of carrying these plants, so perhaps it might be advised to plant bushes on the roofs. In any case, safety measures should be taken while doing so (for instance, to prevent roots from destroying the buildings). Another possibility of making this part of the city greener is growing some plants such as the ivy so that they would cover the walls of some buildings; however, this would require the permission and cooperation of a very large number of local residents and organizations.
These ideas might be considered an element of the tactical urbanism methods due to the fact that they propose to make use of underemployed parts of the cityscape and transform it to attain some realistic goals in the short term. While introducing plants similar to the ivy on the walls of buildings might be hard, creating plantations of bushes and watering them could prove easier.
It is important to stress that there are usually many cars and people in the area, so the additional number of plants can be useful to improve the quality of the air, which is rather polluted. While this will not significantly improve the appearance of the city as it is seen from the ground, it might help to reduce the negative impact of the pollution on the residents of New Orleans and on the people working there.
Lydon, Mike, Dan Bartman, Tony Garcia, Russ Preston, and Ronald Woudstra. Tactical Urbanism 2: Short-Term Action, Long-Term Change. n.d. Web.
Week 9, Lecture 25: Introduction to the Suburbs. n.d. Web.
Week 9, Lecture 26: Suburbs, Levittown & Fordism. n.d. Web.