by Dr. Charlotte Halpern and Francesco Sarti, Sciences Po, Centre for European studies and comparative politics, Paris
In the context of the COVID 19 crisis, the city-as-place approach gained new momentum as part of efforts to ensure safe distancing, accommodate demands for public space and reimagine the post-pandemic city.
Among the repertoires (i.e., lobbying, protest, social media, politicization, etc.) used to make these claims visible and to influence decision-making about road space reallocation, specific attention was given to tactical urbanism.
Tactical Urbanism covers a vast number of temporary, small-scale actions to transform urban spaces, including shared gardening, pop-up plazas and reclaiming street space for urban life. It is not, strictly speaking, a new idea. As a repertoire of street space contestation, it draws on the pioneering work by Jane Jacobs, Jan Gehl and Henri Lefebvre to promote neighbourhood-based interventions and planning by doing.
It constitutes one of the ways through which residents and local communities can effectively challenge politicians, technicians, real-estate developers and business groups, by demonstrating that some problems deemed to be insoluble, such as the pedestrianization of a high street, the development of cycling lanes or the transformation of a parking place into a public space, are feasible. In those countries where the promotion of active modes was predominantly led by urban activists, tactical urbanism became instrumental to challenge car-centric urban planning.