Tactical urbanism allows for plans to be tested and refined prior to full implementation, and for neighbours to work together building connections while creating something unique.
By Graham McNally
Published May 01, 2013
Every year, as a kick off to Doors Open Hamilton, the Hamilton Burlington Society of Architects (HBSA) holds events during 'Architecture Week'. Last year, On the Cusp with guest Ken Greenberg questioned what needed to happen in the City to realize our city's potential.
This year, we're saying, "Enough talk. What can we DO?"
Tactical urbanism is a method of working to change a city through short term, low budget actions that generate long term change. The scale of the tactics varies from small to large. The intention, however, is the same. Change the way that people see their City and try to make it a better place.
Small tactics include, for example, seed bombing. In this type of project, wild flower seeds are spread in vacant lots or in City right of ways to create an informal urban garden or to simply improve the appearance of a weedy ditch.
Larger tactics include Build A Better Block, a tactic that started in Dallas, Texas and involves taking a portion of under utilized street and providing all the amenities that make for a great street.
In the Dallas example, a very generous one-way, three-lane road with parking on both sides was converted into a comfortably scaled one-way, two-lane road with a bike lane and cafe seating that took over some of the road allowance.
Better Block in Dallas
The streets of Hamilton are irrefutably designed primarily for cars. This is a product of several factors, none of which is relevant to where we are today.
Today, we know that infinite growth at the edges of cities isn't sustainable - that we're using up prime farm land for housing and that the cores of many cities suffered as people moved to the suburbs.
We also know, however, that increasingly, the younger generation in our population recognize the benefits of living in an urban environment.
Urban environments increase walkability, which reduces dependency on cars, meaning that typical families can own one instead of two cars. Walking for groceries, restaurants, schools and work reduces our environmental footprint.
Cities are also more likely to have arts and cultural events and amenities that attract younger citizens.
Finally, from a municipal or city's perspective, increasing density rather than growing at the edges means cheaper development and ongoing maintenance as the sewers and water mains are already in place and new servicing doesn't have to be constructed.
I want to see the streets of Hamilton transformed to be more equitably designed for all modes of transportation. I believe that the streets should be places for residents to enjoy, not simply to get from one place to anther. I believe that streets can be places. Finally, I know that the residents that live on the streets often have the best perspective on what a neighbourhood needs.
Tactical urbanism is a compelling strategy for working in our city because it allows for the master plans, designed by the city over many years with enormous budgets, to be tested and refined prior to full scale implementation.
Also, the tactics of tactical urbanism allow a neighbourhood to work together to create something unique to their street building connections between neighbours, local businesses, neighbourhood associations and the City.
Two weeks ago, the HBSA invited Mike Lydon, partner in The Streetplan Collaborative to visit and tour Hamilton and, then participate in a design session that focussed on five sites around the City. Teams of five and six people worked for the day to design possible strategies for their chosen site.
On May 2, Mike returns to Hamilton to present a free public lecture to launch Doors Open Hamilton. He will describe Tactical Urbanism and show examples from across North America. The schemes developed for Hamilton will also be presented.
The HBSA would like invite everyone for what I think will be a very inspiring evening: