Once thought to be an urban design trend, April’s Landscape Architecture Magazine focuses its April issue on the enduring power of Tactical Urbanism. Along with many other colleagues and collaborators, Street Plans’ work is prominently featured in the Magazine’s lead article. “The appeal of these kinds of interventions is a kind of made-by-hand aesthetic,” Lydon says. “It feels very human. It speaks to people who are not designers in a very important way. Most people who engage with these spaces don’t read Landscape Architecture Magazine. They don’t understand an axial or an aerial plan. But they get the immediacy and the human quality and the materiality.”
As one of the movement’s founders, Mike Lydon recognizes the limits of temporary public space. Tactical urbanism isn’t going to solve issues such as affordable housing, access to transit, and food access, but it can be done in tandem with that, he says. “It’s never about just the one day or the one month of the project, but where we are on the arc of transformation and making political and social change.”
It’s Landscape Architecture month, so the whole issue is free!
Senior Director, Ed Janoff, penned this op-ed for the New York Daily News about the congestion that commuters face on a daily basis at Penn Station in New York City, calling for action towards a comprehensive plan to fix this large commuting hub.
Sustainable Nation: Urban Design Patterns for the Future is a newly published book by influential urbanist Douglas Farr, providing a detailed action-oriented framework for overcoming our society’s major climate challenges within four generations.
Street Plans’ Principal Mike Lydon contributed to the book by authoring a chapter on making positive neighborhood change through Tactical Urbanism. Lydon gives case studies from Street Plans’ work at the three different scales: the lot, the block, and the street.
In 2014, NYC released its Vision Zero Action Plan to reduce the number of traffic fatalities and serious injuries to zero by the year 2024. After various safety measures implemented over the past few years, the overall number of traffic-related fatalities has continued to slowly decrease, but one thing is still clear: cars still rule the vast majority of roads. At the current pace, NYC will not reach its goal of zero traffic-related fatalities by 2024.
New York Magazine recently published an article that addresses Vision Zero, along with many other issues that NYC’s streets face and gives various strategies the City needs to take to meet the ever-increasing demands of the future–a future that doesn’t include the private automobile.
The article features a rendering that Street Plans, along with designer Carly Clark, generated to create a vision of crosstown streets designed for people and bikes. This design reflects one of the many detailed visions that Street Plans designed as part of Transportation Alternatives’Streetopia campaign launched last summer. The campaign crafted a dramatic, yet attainable vision for NYC’s streets that prioritizes high-occupancy vehicles, bikes, pedestrians, and car-free streets.
The New South Wales (NSW) Architects Registration Board recently released a new publication titled Towards The Public Interest: the role of architects and citizens in making the city for the common good. As part of the publication, Street Plans’ Principal Mike Lydon shared his thoughts about Tactical Urbanism and its ability to make citizen participation more accessible.
He also talks about Street Plans’ practice as both an advocacy and planning firm: “We call ourselves a planning, design and research advocacy firm. My partner, Tony, and I, both come at this work as advocates for better cities, first…We are going to be coming at projects where we don’t think adding more pollution, and car traffic and congestion and danger in our streets is a good thing. We’re the wrong firm to hire if you want to go in that direction.”
Street Plans’ Principal Mike Lydon wrote a chapter on creating Resilient Streets and Resilient Cities in a new book titled Community Resilience Reader: Essential Resources for an Era of Upheaval, published by Island Press and edited by Post Carbon Institute‘s Daniel Lerch.
“So-called tactical resilience is the application of the tactical urbanism methodology to projects that do not just make cities better places to live, but that specifically address communities’ resilience challenges.”
The project team transformed a sparse and underutilized public space along the waterfront promenade for one day. Using theories from environmental psychology, the design was meant to create feelings of fascination and a sense of exoticism from everyday life. Art, plants, and historical images focused people’s attention on the water and its history. The team then measured the effects those interventions created on visitors’ emotions, bodies, and behavior.
“The intervention actually caused a change in people’s behavior. This restorative environment induced people to spend more time at the site. The number of people observed in stationary activities at the site increased more than fivefold during the intervention. This is exactly what we need to see if we want to bring life to underperforming public space” says Street Plans’ own Sherryl Muriente.
Click HERE to see the press release and HERE to view the full report on the project’s results.
Tactical Urbanism Volume 5 was led by TaMaLaCà, a planning and design organization based in Sassari, Sardinia, Italy, in collaboration with Street Plans. Volume 5 shares more than a dozen examples of short-term, bottom-up, and community-minded practice taking root across Italy.
Of specific interest in this new publication, TaMaLaCà seeks to explicitly include school-age children in the design and production of more usable public space through playful, short-term interventions.
The full guide is available to view and download in both English and Italian here and here.
The Congress for the New Urbanism (CNU) is highlighting 25 great ideas to come out of the movement for their 25th anniversary and in anticipation of the CNU conference in Seattle this upcoming May. Street Plans Principals Mike Lydon and Tony Garcia were interviewed about Tactical Urbanism, one of the great ideas of the New Urbanism. To see the entire article click here.
Participants were tested the day before as a “control”, when the pop-up space wasn’t there. Public space surveying was also conducted before and while the pop-up space was being implemented. This included pedestrian and cyclist counts, stationary activity mapping, and observing the time it took pedestrians to walk through the space. These various measures attempted to reveal how the space impacted passersby. The team observed whether people stopped to hang out in the space, or if it caught their attention and caused them to slow down.
Street Plans designed the space with a variety of configurations to test. For example, some tables were placed in the shade, some had just one seat as opposed to two, some were right by the waterfront, and some were in a more enclosed area with tall bamboo bushes and plants. Street Plans wanted to see how people reacted to different types of seating and if more people preferred a specific type.
Overall, the project measured participants’ neurological responses to experiencing the day-long pop-up space created by Street Plans with watches that detected changes in heart rate and skin conductance. The data will help reveal the possible wellness benefits of well-designed urban spaces, and inform how urban design affects the minds and bodies of those who move throughout it.
Thank you to all of our volunteers who experienced this space with us, and a special thanks to Moonlighter Makerspace for helping Street Plans construct some of its critical elements.