Everyone seems to be talking about tactical urbanism these days, and at Gehl we are interested in how we can re-imagine notions of ‘temporary’ and ‘permanent’ to ensure that urban environments can evolve in sync with rapidly changing urban cultures.
Traditional connotations of temporary imply ‘cheap’, ‘low-quality’ and lacking design rigor. While ‘permanent’ seems to inspire a sense of quality and finality we’ve come to appreciate in our cities. Yet typical financing and approval process for urban design projects can take over 10 years to move from concept to construction. Thus permanent projects are outdated before the ribbons are cut and opening ceremonies are held. That is neither an efficient nor effective use of scarce resources, finances and man-power.
Temporary initiatives when integrated as part of a wider street-design process can act as public consultation, at actual scale and in real-time – thus making a project process more inclusive, effective, engaging and efficient. A re-interpretation of what is ‘temporary’ and ‘permanent’ might make the public realm less susceptible to boom and bus property cycles, helping the successful design of the new permanent, which may be ‘permanently temporary’.
It has been said that we will experience the equivalent of 100 years of cultural change over the next thirty years. We have to develop new models for conceiving, testing, financing and implementing projects that respond to this reality. Rapid urban prototyping, pilot projects, and the tactical urbanism approach are the first steps at addressing the speed in which the way we move, meet, and spend time in cities is changing.
A festival on this topic is happening this weekend in San Francisco, the Urban Prototyping Festival on 5th and Mission, San Francisco 12pm – 10pm with a panel discussion on ‘Learning about Cities from Data & Citizen Sensors’ at 7pm with Gehl Architect’s Jeff Risom.