Josh Stephens reviews Tactical Urbanism for the California Planning & Development Report, noting that the concept "Tactical Urbanism" has solidified its place in the cultural milieu enough to be considered, indeed, "a thing." (via Planetizen)

Tactical Urbanism serves as a how-to guide for activists who want to get in on the action. There’s not a lot of theorizing in Tactical Urbanism, which is probably for the best. Surely future scholars will have a field day with the trends that planners, and citizen-planners, are exploring today. Nowhere are ideas like Henri Lefebvre’s “right to the city” more in question than when citizens take planning into their own hands. For now, though, everyone seems to be rolling up their sleeves and getting out the sidewalk chalk. 

As Lydon and Garcia describe them, the innovations of tactical urbanism share a few characteristics. They are inexpensive, temporary or semi-temporary, small-scale, neighborhood-focused, and, sometimes extralegal. The playful side of tactical urbanism seeks to make urban spaces more inviting and lively. The serious side of tactical urbanism amounts to performative critique against not only modernism urban planning (which has already suffered a generation’s worth of complaints) but also many of the progressive responses to modernism, namely smart growth and New Urbanism.


They provide practical framework for envisioning and executing tactical urbanism projects, proclaiming, “we want you [i.e. everyone] to feel empowered." It’s an optimistic chapter, insisting that, “opportunities to apply Tactical Urbanism are everyone—from a blank wall to an overly wide street, to an underused parking lot of vacant property.” The authors recommend a process of “design thinking”, with five steps: empathize, define, ideate, prototype, test — and then start all over. ... Tactical Urbanism does not speculate on the maturation of its subject. Now that tactical urbanism is a “thing,” what’s next? Right now, a few futures seem possible. It could prove to be a fad. It could get co-opted, if McDonald’s, rather than the local coffee house, starts sponsoring parklets. Something could go horribly awry, like an automobile crash in a temporary plaza. Tactical urbanism is about experimentation, so an earnest failure may be as good as an accidental success.1

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