Is It Time to Hit the Pause Button on Tactical Urbanism?

Mimi Zeiger pens a contrarian's take on the growing popularity of DIY urbanism, noting the danger in what she deems a conservative urban-planning position.
March 9, 2012, 8am PST | Jonathan Nettler | @nettsj
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Zeiger does not pine for an end to the practice of tactical urbanism, but rather, for more unsettling and disturbing interventions. The rub for Zeiger is in the gulf between such projects potential as instruments for change and disruption and the "conservative" characteristics that make them popular and repeatable.

"[A]t its best tactical urbanism acts as a catalyst for change and serves as an exemplary point of difference-green space in a sea of asphalt or a vivid art installation in a disused storefront. At worst, the hallmark of most DIY subcultures-that the producer and the audience are one and the same-plays out across an urban scale. Successful projects stand out because they offer up a program type that disrupts quotidian city life but doesn't alienate potential participants."

Citing a recent ad-hoc memorial built in honor of artist Mike Kelley to support her position, Zeiger calls for more challenging and boundary-pushing pieces. "Urban life is much more than simply gathering or gardening; it encompasses death and loss as well as pranks and play. As tactical urbanism continues to move forward and remake cities from the bottom up, we need to choose programs that may seem odd and uncomfortable in order to gain more comfort."

One avenue for discussion, however, might by the premise that not all tactical or temporary interventions are meant as art pieces. Some simply want to improve the urban environment in small increments.

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Published on Friday, March 2, 2012 in LAB|log
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