Tactics of Pop-up Placemaking

Enabling users, traders, residents and anyone else to convert spaces into places. Overnight... What examples have you seen?

Baxter Street Fortitude Valley Brisbane QLD AUS, Image Baxter Street, Fortitude Valley, Brisbane, QLD, AUS: I had a great time participating in PARK(ing) Day in front of the design studio of Deicke Richards.  Baxter Street Fortitude Valley Brisbane QLD AUS, Image Baxter Street, Fortitude Valley, Brisbane, QLD, AUS: I had a great time participating in PARK(ing) Day in front of the design studio of Deicke Richards.

Posted by: Andrew Hammonds

Thanks to: Atlantic Cities and Pop-ups are papering over our crumbling social structures and Tactical Urbanism 2: Short-Term Action, Long Term Change

As a practitioner in urban design I was always a little nervous undertaking community consultation on a project. The 'town hall meetings' generate vocal, angry and frustrated emotions for locals. And why shouldn't they. Most of the time we weren't really interested in feedback. We just had to go through the motions.

Being a volunteer Placemaker for my local centre has consolidated my enthusiasm for pop-up placemaking or tactical urbanism. We have generated ideas for temporary markets, street art, pop-up shops... Locals and traders working together to actually create place. As I said to Michael Papageorgiou over a coffee on the Terrace last weekend - it's liberating to be working with the locals and trying ideas. With or without Council.  

...think of your city as if it were a living work of art where citizens can involve and engage themselves in the creation of a transformed place.Charles Landry - The Art of City Making

Pop-up Placemaking is our term for urban interventions – quick, local, often temporary and cheap. Aiming to make a street or small part of a city more lively or enjoyable. Pop-ups are, by their very definition, temporary. They're urban placeholders.  Tactical Urbanism 2: Short-Term Action, Long Term Change (created by the Street Plans Collaborative*) identifies 24 tactics:

  1. Open Streets
  2. Play Streets
  3. Build a Better Block (see our article Geelong Better Block - a place created by the locals)
  4. Park(Ing) Day (see our article PARK(ing) Day BNE with local produce)
  5. Guerilla Gardening (see our article Community Gardens: how to grow it local!)
  6. Pop-Up Retail
  7. Pavement To Plazas (see our article Transforming NYC streets into places)
  8. Pavement To Parks
  9. Pop-Up Cafes
  10. Depave
  11. Chair Bombing
  12. Food Carts/Trucks
  13. Site Pre-Vitalization
  14. Pop-Up Town Hall
  15. Informal Bike Parking
  16. Intersection Repair
  17. Ad-Busting
  18. Reclaimed Setbacks
  19. Park Mobile
  20. Weed Bombing
  21. Mobile Vendors
  22. Micro-Mixing
  23. Park-Making
  24. Camps

Latrobe Tce Paddington QLD AUS. Depave in action? Council quickly creating new gardens in The Terrace by cutting up concrete.Latrobe Tce Paddington QLD AUS. Depave in action? Council quickly creating new gardens in The Terrace by cutting up concrete.

While these tactics originate in USA, they are being replicated across cities around the world. Becoming worldwide phenomena.

The lack of resources is no longer an excuse not to act. The idea that action should only be taken after all the answers and the resources have been found is a sure recipe for paralysis. The planning of a city is a process that allows for corrections; it is supremely arrogant to believe that planning can be done only after every possible variable has been controlled.

Jaime Lerner - Architect, urbanist, former mayor of Curitiba, Brazil

I appreciate the input into this article from friends on Facebook and Linked-in.

Steven Burgess asked about the opportunities of Pop-up Placemaking for regional cities. Most of the examples I found were located in progressive cities or depressed areas. This might reflect the importance of mind-set. Council giving up control to enable the locals to create place. Harder to do in more conservative areas. But why not prototype it? It's cheap, temporary and might just work? You can always right it off as a trial. 

As Kirralie Houghton said Pop-up placemaking has several names - 'Guerilla' urbanism, 'self help', DIY. She reminded me that Brisbane has interesting things happening with UR(BNE).

Phil Smith sent me this article "Pop-ups are papering over our crumbling social structures" He wonders whether they are effectively papering over the cracks of austerity measures and society in the UK. The same could be said here! Pop ups are great if the bring lasting regeneration and change. But if not, they may be a sign of failing society and continued loss of permanent investment and long term economic change that is not place focused! Phil suggested I dig a bit deeper to avoid the usual frippery on pop-ups (what's he trying to say?). That's an opportunity for him in the next article!

I argued that pop-up is about enabling non-specialists to contribute to place. Innovation through a preparedness to fail and learn. Is this challenging for designers - failure and general-ism? According to Phil it shouldn't be. Failure is a key part of the design process and 'career designers' usually are generalists. Everyone designs, 'designers' don't own the process. There is a good theme in there about the human spirit, optimism and opportunity - not seen by a traditional market. Which seems to be a central in pop-ups/tactical urbanism. 

Liz de Chastel was interested in the demographics of pop up instigators and patrons. Younger generation dis-enfranchised or dis-empowered from mainstream. Or is this too simplistic? Perhaps not if you consider Urban Design dominated by older men with an Anglo-Saxon/Australian heritage. 

Mackay QLD AUS. Mobile Bar - North QLD style (dad joke!).  Mackay QLD AUS. Mobile Bar - North QLD style (dad joke!).

*International leader in tactical urbanism, Mike Lydon from Street Plans USA and Kylie Legge of Place Partners will be leading one day workshops in Sydney and Melbourne September 2013. 

What do you think? What examples have you seen?

Written: Friday 26 July, 2013

Additional Information

Place rolesPlacemaking 101Place qualitiesQualities of successful placesSocial Fabricplanning the social fabricAdditional Information - Promoting urban designPlace Tools (Additional Information Promoting Urban Design)Place Manage

Additional Blogs

What we can learn from Newcastle PlacemakingLocal Business partnering to create better PlacesCommunity Gardens: how to grow it local!Geelong Better Block - a place created by the localsIdeas for Macgregor Tce, Bardon - StatusShouldn't the users of places vote? With placemaking on the rise should we forget urban design? 29 ideas for Council to embed urban design and placemakingA Bias Towards Action

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We generate discussion among participants in our training courses in urban design and placemaking. While there are common qualities to the places we like, our own views matter. As suggested by participants, we have started this blog to continue this discussion on-line. The Comments section at the bottom of each article provides the opportunity, so don't be bashful. Particularly if you disagree with us!



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