The idea of tactical or guerilla urbanism holds promise in empowering us to plan communities in a proactive manner without getting bogged down by the slow evolution of land use law.

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Photo Credit: Michigan Municipal League (MML) -

These are exciting times in urban planning… at least from my perspective as someone who is still relatively junior in the field. In many respects, urban planning has become more mainstream, both as a topic and as a profession as people realize the undeniable impact that the urban form has on how they work, live, and play. I am of the opinion that most of society is now remarkably more conversant in the topics integrated within urban planning that we would have found even one or two decades ago.

One of the most interesting themes that I see emerging in planning (and in civic participation in general) is a willingness to take community involvement beyond the scripted accusations and comments on projects at a public hearing. Planning (in a government sense) has always been (and most likely always will be) mired in the minutia of bureaucracy… and while everyone seems focused on lessening the bureaucratic underpinnings of the profession, there is little work to lessen the litigious backlash against undesirable outcomes (from any side of the equation). So, the situation as it lies now, is that government/centralized/bureaucratic planning has stalled or at least slowed in its ability to reach new solutions. I’m not arguing that there isn’t a wealth of great new ideas circulating, but the transition from aged zoning concepts such as Euclidian zoning, low-suburban density, auto-centric transportation networks is not exactly moving at the speed of light. Planners and elected officials seem hesitant to jump on board with new concepts because ultimately everyone wants to use someone else as a guinea pig, avoiding the long and painful road of litigation that awaits any new land use concept.

But as I said, these are exciting times to be a planner, because it seems that we’ve awoken to the idea that it’s sometimes better to ask for forgiveness than to ask for permission. In addition, there seems to be some evolution away from the idea that we only own individual plots of land to the idea that we actually own some stake of the communities in which we live. In this light, the idea of tactical or guerilla urbanism holds promise in empowering us to plan communities in a proactive manner without getting bogged down by the slow evolution of land use law. I’ve previously covered some tactical/guerilla urbanism efforts with the Walk Raleigh project, but I wanted to use this post as a means of introducing the Tactical Urbanism manuals (of which Volume 2 was just released).

Image Credit: Greenbelt Alliance -


adj: \ t a k – t i – k ə l \

1. of or relating to small-scale actions serving a larger purpose

2. adroit in planning or maneuvering to accomplish a purpose

- Definition of “Tactical” – from the cover of Tactical Urbanism 2

Tactical Urbanism 2These manuals (created by the Street Plans Collaborative) highlight the reclamation of urban spaces while simultaneously demonstrating how small efforts can spawn new conversations about the ways in which we envisage the urban realm. Check out the links below to access the manuals. I also recommend The Open Streets Guide which focuses on opportunities to repurpose streets for their public purpose rather than simply as “tracks” for automobiles.

Tactical Urbanism

Tactial Urbanism 2

Open Streets Guide

In the same mentality as the Tactical Urbanism manuals, I encourage you to check out the video below titled “Wikicity; How Web-Enabled, Citizen-Driven Urban Planning and Design is Changing the City” from the Harvard Graduate School of Design.

[Video source - The Harvard Graduate School of Design via YouTube]