A Cry and a Demand: Tactical Urbanism and the Right to the City

by Lana K. Alisdairi

Institution: University of Washington
Year: 2014
Keywords: DIY urbanism; right to the city; Tacoma; tactical urbanism; Urban planning
Record ID: 2043998
Full text PDF: http://hdl.handle.net/1773/26826


In many cities around the world a growing interest in small-scale urban design interventions is reshaping urban spaces. These actions (often called tactical urbanism) include: guerrilla and community gardening; `creative space' movements to fill abandoned buildings for a range of purposes; housing and retail cooperatives; pop-up shops; social economies and bartering systems; occupying public spaces with alternative uses, skateboarding; and more. This thesis offers insights on emerging activist roles that designers and urbanists are assuming in an effort to achieve more direct control over urban space. This thesis considers these myriad practices through the context of French philosopher Henri Lefebvre's `right to the city.' It asks the question: is there a shared politics of the city that serves as a sort of theoretical checklist for these practices? I argue that many of the efforts championed by tactical urbanism can be viewed as liminal additions of rights to the current, liberal-democratic city. However, many critical aspects of the movement give it the potential to move beyond a less radical interpretation of right to the city. This claim is illustrated through an analysis of general tactical urbanism goals and various do-it-yourself interventions taking place in Tacoma, WA.