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Tactical Urbanism, Lecture by Arvind Ramachandran, 7 July 2013
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Tactical Urbanism, Lecture by Arvind Ramachandran, 7 July 2013


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  • 1. Everyday Urbanism The Tactical Turn in Architecture and Urban Design Arvind Ramachandran Summer Studio Lecture / Sochi / 6 July 2013
  • 2. Everyday Urbanism Background My name is Arvind Ramachandran. I am an Indian architect and urban designer, who is interested in shaping our built environment in planet friendly and socially inclusive ways, using citizen driven, participatory design approaches. I hail from Chennai in India, one of the fastest growing cities in the world with 9 million citizens and a 40 billion usd economy. I have studied architecture, urban design and planning in India, Sweden and Finland, and am currently working at an architecture office in Helsinki. Through this lecture, which is based on the background research from my Masters thesis project at KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm, I will introduce the “Everyday Urbanism” approach to urban design (and architecture), and demonstrate how this has succeeded in creating inclusive public spaces across the world.
  • 3. Everyday Urbanism “Everyday Urbanism.. celebrates and builds on everyday, ordinary life and reality, with little pretense about the possibility of a perfectible, tidy or ideal built environment. Indeed, as John Kaliski, Margaret Crawford and others in Everyday Urbanism point out, the city and its designers must be open to and incorporate „the elements that remain elusive: ephemerality, cacophony, multiplicity and simultaneity.‟ Form and function are seen to be structurally connected in an open-ended way that highlights culture more than design as a determinant of behavior.” - Douglas Kelbaugh, University of Michigan, USA in Three Urbanisms and the Public Realm What is Everyday Urbanism?
  • 4. Everyday Urbanism What is Everyday Urbanism? In contrast to conventional strategy based urban design, in which large stakeholders come together to create grand visions for the future city, everyday urbanism encourages building up the future city in smaller bits and pieces, with active involvement of citizens using a tactic based, more spontaneous and locally tailored approach to urban design.
  • 5. Everyday Urbanism What is Everyday Urbanism? Everyday urbanism recognizes the city as a complex entity, shaped by different forces, and argues that the deterministic approach followed by architects and planners, who usually propose strategic masterplans, might not always create liveable and vibrant cities that serve different sections of society.
  • 6. Everyday Urbanism What is Everyday Urbanism? Proponents of this approach call for looking at the city in new ways, from the bottom up instead of top down as has usually been done in the last few centuries of planned city building, in order to find opportunities that improve city life without requiring massive investment or large scale redevelopment.
  • 7. Everyday Urbanism What is Everyday Urbanism? While everyday urbanism might not be able to operate independent of more conventional approaches, it provides the vital connective tissue between more formally planned city structures. The wide diversity of responses possible within the small spaces everyday urbanism operates in, allows for vibrant cities with diverse public spaces.
  • 8. Everyday Urbanism What is Everyday Urbanism? Central to the everyday urbanism approach is the recognition of the city (and its design) as a constantly changing, collectively run entity. There is no clear line between design, construction and use phases in this case. The city is constantly reshaped by citizens while using the spaces created by everyday urbanism, and hence the chances of succeeding in response to user preferences are much higher than in the case of conventional, top down approaches where public spaces are designed and implemented with little to no user engagement.
  • 9. Everyday Urbanism What is Everyday Urbanism? Everyday urbanism can be considered a modern version of the historic vernacular approach to architecture and urban design. This method of creating spaces without depending on design professionals, has resulted in many smart solutions that efficiently tackle uniquely local design issues. Everyday urbanism does the same in contemporary cities, by harnessing the combined creative energy of the diverse populations that inhabit our cities, and using it to deliver spaces that users prefer and will make their own.
  • 10. Everyday Urbanism What is Everyday Urbanism? Everyday urbanism calls for a break from the traditional assumption that space can only be created through built form. Temporary initiatives (such as parking day, in which street parking places across the world are used for creating mini parks on street sides to encourage more public spaces in modern cities) are equally important tools in shaping space and making it available for use by citizens. This non built form dependent approach allows for temporary interventions in dense city areas.
  • 11. Everyday Urbanism What is Everyday Urbanism? Monumental public space, such as the squares of historic cities, can in many cases be highly formal and over designed, resulting in the exclusion of many activities, and as a consequence, the social groups that perform them. Everyday urbanism, by blurring boundaries between the private and public, and operating in the border between the two, enables a variety of public activities to thrive in our complex, modern cities.
  • 12. Everyday Urbanism Why? Modernism created grand plans of future cities, a way of working that coninues to influence 21st century urban design. Post modernists, such as Jane Jacobs, called for a more humane approach, and proposed that certain types of built form are preferable for a good city and better life. Everyday urbanism questions these deterministic approaches, and instead calls for design based on local, lived experience of the intended users.
  • 13. Everyday Urbanism Why? Considering the socio-economic diversity that characterize contemporary cities all over the world, it becomes obvious that applying solutions that might have succeeded in one place will not necessarily be welcome in another. Designers thus need to be more sensitive to local voices, and approach city shaping with a facilitator‟s point of view.
  • 14. Everyday Urbanism How? In this new way of working, the designer‟s skills continue to be relevant, as the people‟s preferences need to be translated into design solutions. In fact, it can sometimes be more challenging to take the everyday urbanism approach, as one is attempting to streamline and organize something that is characterized by randomness and complexity. The results, however, can be quite rewarding, as users prefer spaces that are tailored to their needs much more than generic ones that have been built adhering to abstract theoretical concepts which have little to do with the reality on site.
  • 15. Everyday Urbanism Some consciously designed spaces of Everyday Urbanism Parklets, Los Angeles A scheme by the city to create such small public spaces in otherwise tight urban areas has been successful within months of opening earlier this spring.
  • 16. Everyday Urbanism The park contains objects from around the globe, and celebrates the diversity of local inhabitants from 50 nationalities who have contributed to the project. This project stands in sharp contrast to the monumental designs that have been created in Denmark recently. Some consciously designed spaces of Everyday Urbanism Superkilen, Copenhagen by BIG and Topotek1
  • 17. Everyday Urbanism Aesthetically designed public toilets, in which everything from the signage to the waste disposal technology was developed with close consultation with future users, have contributed to increased cleanliness in public spaces while adding colour to the cityscape. Some consciously designed spaces of Everyday Urbanism Namma Toilet, Chennai, India
  • 18. Everyday Urbanism A temporary garden, built from movable shipping pallets, in a district of Northern Paris, that has grown with citizen support and today become a place for interaction and many other public activities in an area otherwise lacking such facilities. Some consciously designed spaces of Everyday Urbanism ECOBox, Paris by AAA (
  • 19. Everyday Urbanism A travelling food cart, that becomes an outdoor dining space where it is parked and helps bring people together over food, without permanently encroaching on public land. Some consciously designed spaces of Everyday Urbanism White Limousine Yatai, Japan by Atelier Bow-Wow
  • 20. Everyday Urbanism Further readings on Everyday Urbanism Book by Chase, J. Crawford,M. Kaliski,J. 2008. Los Angeles: Monacelli Press. This book and the associated website,, have lots of resources and examples of completed projects to understand more about this approach to built environment design.
  • 21. Everyday Urbanism Further readings on Everyday Urbanism Website of the US Pavilion at the Venice Architecture Biennale, 2012 Examples and inspiration from completed projects that are small scale, involve users in new ways and create better public spaces. 78th Play Street, a small park for kids in Queens, New York
  • 22. Everyday Urbanism Thank you! “The true issue is not to make beautiful cities or well managed cities, it is to make a work of life. The rest is a by product” -Raymond Ledrut Highline park, New York, redeveloped unused rail track area by initiative of citizens and design professionals