Tactical Engagements

Tactical urbanism uses the city as a site of experimentation, deploying pop-up parks, vacant retail reuse, or unsanctioned street furniture as way to reprogram the urban realm. The practice traditionally takes an activist position in relationship to environmental, political, cultural and economic factors. However, as the practice is increasingly being absorbed into mainstream thinking on cities, it is critical that we look closely at both the underlying assumptions and resulting effects” ~ Mimi Zeiger (City Sessions @ IfUD)

As part of the Urban Design Week 2011, LG&LGN partnered with IfUD and hosted an online discussion on tactical urbanism and socially-conscious urban design from August 22 to September 18, 2011. The forum entitled, “City Sessions: Four Questions on Tactics, Urbanism, and Practice” brought together voices from academic and professional spheres on four interrelated topics: Public, Evaluation, Tactics and the Design Profession, and Failure. Thanks to fellow lgnlgn’ers and event organizers Mimi and Quilian, the online discussion culminated in a live debate at Parson’s New School on Sunday, September 18. The discussion now continues, online.

Among several provocations, I responded to the session on Tactics:
To me it’s both fascinating and troubling to see the resurgence of the once-dominant (and self-indulging) models of the architect: ‘architect-as-artist’ and ‘architect-as-technician’ [1] in current tactical preoccupations. The ghosts of both these models have led to a new wave of ‘aesthetic volunteerism,’ wherein the environments in crisis are more often than not, reduced to urban art installations. Detroit is an emerging example. On the one hand, the city’s contemporary challenges necessitate the need for architects to participate in social projects, however tiny and however short-term. On the other hand, the participating architects’ own education and professional affiliations often tend to emphasize and project an image of self in isolation from—and in opposition to—wider social groups, including other designers on the same terrain/in the same league. Perhaps, we need an alternative model that first and foremost raises urban questions through a fully engaged and active process of communication between and among various participating groups. But the question remains: are we willing to work with and on such knowledge [2]?

Elsewhere, check out the TACTICAL URBANISM Online Workshop (October 2011) directed by Ethel Baraona Pohl and Paco Gonzalez.

[1] Among Linda’s extensive writings on social and human aspects of design, see in particular: Groat, L. “Architecture’s Resistance to Diversity: A Matter of Theory as Much as Practice” in JAE 47/1, 1993.
[2] See Dutton, T. “Cultural Studies and Critical Pedagogy: Cultural Pedagogy and Architecture,” 1996 for an expanded discussion on knowledge, agency, and design.

  1. Hi Kush, thanks for mentioning the TACTICAL URBANISM online workshop.

    I am Francesco and I am responsible of online coordination of the workshop.
    One of the participant of the workshop has canceled his registration, so we have a place available. If you are interested, feel free to write me at fc@ecosistemaurbano.com

    I would also kindly ask you to change the link to the workshop. The right link is http://www.dreamhamar.org/category/tactical-urbanism/
    which is the blog of the workshop.


    • Hello Francesco. Thanks for your note. I’ll keep my eyes peeled for updates on your website. I’ve also corrected the embedded link to your online workshop. Cheers – Kush

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