Active Urbanism: Tactical Interventions

Project: Active Urbanism – Tactical Urban Interventions as Long-Term Planning Tools
Date: Fall 2013
Professor: Antje Steinmuller
Class: Graduate Elective

In cooperation with SF Jazz and the San Francisco Planning Department

“To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”
(Buckminster Fuller)

In cities across the globe, temporary and bottom-up interventions for the activation of public space are proliferating. Generally reactive in nature, such interventions occur in response to urban vacancies and underused areas. Beginning as activist appropriations of city space by artists, designers, architects and locals, these short-term tactics have also become catalysts with their effects on the city space reaching well beyond their life-time and locale. In the context of the broad interest in, and application of, tactical urban interventions in cities in North America and Europe, this seminar will focus on the dynamics of the longer-term potentials of temporary design strategies, and their integration as active (rather than reactive) long-term planning tools.
The class will examine case study strategies ranging from Park(ing) Day and Proxy SF, to Raumlabor and Studio UC’s Dynamic Masterplan for Tempelhof Airport in Berlin, developing comparative visual techniques for the analysis of physical conditions, temporal processes, the programmatic and spatial nature of the tactical response, as well as collaborative and curatorial models for their development, stakeholder networks, legislative frameworks, and economic models – culminating in a collective visual catalogue of existing and potential models for short-term tactics activating urban space within longer-term planning processes. The seminar will be accompanied by weekly reading discussions and short writing assignments of relevant texts drawing from the evolving discourse on tactical urbanism. Seminar discussions will touch upon the origins and drivers of bottom-up urban interventions, the increasing instrumentalization of interim use, and the redefinition of the role of the designer/architect in the process. The seminar will also be supported by presentations and guest lectures on current practices.
This class is also an ENGAGE course supported by CCA’s Center for Art and Public Life: In addition to the analytical portion of the course, the class will also partner with SF Jazz to work on proposals for an planned local urban intervention at SF Jazz on Linden Alley as part of the SF Planning Department’s Living Alleys project. This new two-year city initiative was developed in conjunction with the Market-Octavia Neighborhood Plan, and aims to provide tools to the community for the bottom-up activation of Hayes Valley’s alleyways through Public Private Partnerships. It constitutes a new test case for the integration of bottom-up and top-down efforts. The long-term goal for the SF Planning Department is to create similar programs for other areas of San Francisco. Students will have the opportunity to critically reflect on this new development model in the context of the seminar’s readings and case studies while actively participating in forming a specific proposal for a tactical urban intervention that has the potential to be realized.

Students will be expected to engage in three types of work for the semester. A series of weekly, required readings will necessitate careful study. A short ‘weekly summary’ of the readings will mix concise writing, image, citation, and cross-referencing. A month-long analysis project in graphic form will require research skills, critical thinking and the ability to define appropriate visualization methods. The analysis project is followed by a design project that draws on the analysis and reading: students will work in teams of 2 on a physical and temporal proposal for Linden Alley in direct collaboration with SF Jazz. The design process will include client feedback as well as presentations to the local community and the SF Planning Department. Proposals have the potential to be selected for realization, or to spark projects for other alleys in the Hayes Valley neighborhood with different community partners. Students will conclude the semester with a short paper with graphic notations, developing a scenario for how their local approach to Linden Alley could proliferate and catalyze larger urban change.

Title image: Urban Catalyst, Berlin (after a sketch by Le Corbusier)