Tactical Urbanist’s Guide to Materials and Design

This readable and attractive guide from The Street Plans Collaborative offers practical advice around carrying out tactical urbanism initiatives. More specifically, drawing insight from real-world examples, it demonstrates the benefits of tactical urbanism, the ingredients needed for a successful project, and it provides practical advice around the materials used in tactical urbanism. Photographs, example cases, and illustrations are provided throughout.

Date added 17 August 2021
Last updated 17 August 2021

During the Covid-19 pandemic, many places around the world have been temporarily re-designed through tactical urbanism initiatives, in order to ensure streets and public spaces are safe and comply with physical distancing requirements. This readable and attractive guide - from The Street Plans Collaborative - draws on real-world tactical urbanism examples to offer practical advice around carrying out tactical urbanism initiatives, with a particular focus on design and materials. As the authors explain, "Tactical Urbanism refers to a city, organizational, and/or citizen-led approach to neighborhood building using short-term, low-cost, and scalable interventions to catalyze long-term change” (p.11). The guide outlines several key benefits of engaging in tactical urbanism:

  • Inspire action and expedite implementation
  • Draw attention to shortcomings of current design
  • Widen public engagement and collaboration
  • Deepen understanding of local user needs
  • Testing ground before more long-term investments and solutions.

However, the authors suggest that tactical urbanism is not always successful. They outline several key ‘ingredients’ for effective sanctioned tactical urbanism initiatives, as summarised as follows:

  • An understanding of need – successful projects are collaborative and context-sensitive. A localised understanding of context and user needs is important.
  • Recognition of constraints – parameters need to be outlined at the outset and clearly communicated to all involved stakeholders.
  • Goals – from an understanding of context and need, clear goals the tactical urbanism project wants to meet should be devised and agreed upon.
  • A collaborative process – a high degree of collaboration is needed from a diverse range of stakeholders. The design process needs a high degree of communication.
  • Flexibility and creativity – learn from starting small and refine plans over time from testing and innovating.

The guide’s main focus is on how to practically use materials in tactical urbanism projects; and it provides in-depth tips on reasons to use, costs, and advice about how to implement a range of the following materials:

  • Basic Project Materials (chalk lines, paint rollers, pressure washers etc.)
  • Barrier Elements (traffic cones, delineator posts, barricades, wooden crates etc.)
  • Surface Treatments (traffic tape, spray chalk, stencils, paint etc.)
  • Street Furniture (hay bales, benches, crates, pallets, tables and chairs etc.)
  • Landscaping Elements (astro turf, live grass, trees, planters etc.)
  • Signs (city signs, homemade signs, traffic signs etc.)
  • Programming (exercise, games, art, music etc.)

For more resources on Tactical Urbanism

Please see here for Dr Steve Millington’s (Institute of Place Management) Introduction to Tactical Urbanism.

Please see here for NACTO’s guide on Streets for Pandemic Response and Recovery.

Please see here for a presentation from Stephanie Kerr (Leamington BID) on how creative tactical urbanism measures have been employed in Leamington.