Planner’s Guide to Tactical Urbanism

TU Planner's Guide

The Planner’s Guide to Tactical Urbanism is a guidebook that I prepared as part of my MUP degree at McGill University. In the final semester of the program, students dedicate their time to complete a supervised research project on a topic that is of interest to them. The format of the project can vary depending on the topic being studied – a student might prepare an urban design proposal for a particular site, review the success of a provincial bylaw, or complete a literature review of a historical planning movement.

For my final project I chose to look at the topic of tactical urbanism: small-scale, short-term interventions meant to inspire long-term change in cities — think guerilla gardening and Park(ing) Day. In 2010-11, the term “tactical urbanism” came into common use when a group of young urbanists created the publication Tactical Urbanism: Short-term Action, Long-term Change, a round-up of tactical projects from across North America. I wanted to examine what role, if any, planners should play with respect to these initiatives. Tactical projects are often citizen-led, however planners and officials are also starting to incorporate temporary and pilot projects into their work as well. It seemed like a good time to look at some of the practical considerations for official actors and how they might use tactical projects as a way to engage with citizens and support an incremental approach to planning.

In the end I wanted to create a user-friendly document for planners who are interested in these types of projects. Over the course of four months I interviewed citizens, community organizations, planners, and municipal officials from cities across North America to get their perspective on tactical and temporary projects they’d led: the challenges they’d faced and what they felt the role of planners ought to be. It was inspiring to say the least. A lot of wonderful, creative, and thoughtful work is being done in our cities.

As much as this is a finished product for my program, tactical and temporary urbanism as a movement is continuously growing and evolving. During the course of my research, new projects were often brought to light and a number of advancements to my case study projects were announced requiring updates to the guidebook. To the extent possible, new articles, books, and project advancements were incorporated, however, this will always be a work in progress.

Both the guidebook and complete research project are provided for those who are interested in this topic. I recommend that the file(s) be downloaded prior to viewing in order to maintain the intended page layouts.

TU Planner's Guide Guidebook (~ 6MB) – right click to download




SRP1_Page_1 Research Project (~ 10MB) – right click to download




The guidebook is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License. All are welcome to distribute and share it freely; however, if you wish to use images and photographs found in the guidebook or research report, permission must be sought from the individual photographers directly.



6 thoughts on “Planner’s Guide to Tactical Urbanism

  1. Fascinating topic! Thank you so much for making your project available on this blog. This phenomenon seems to be expanding outside of the Americas and in Europe. I’m currently living in Geneva and was surprised the other day to see some forms of tactical urbanism.
    I am currently working on a small project which implies putting pamphlets under the wipers of cars that park on cycling paths. I’ll be posting an article about it on my blog as soon as I print them and start “distributing” them. If you are interested, let me know! (the article is in French though…)
    Looking forward to reading more from you. Have a good day!

  2. This is great! I’m a planner that helped plan the Better Block Kansas City event. The thing I love about tactical urbanism is how it shifts people’s mindset from complaining about their city in the newspaper’s online comment section to feeling empowered to create genuine change in their cities. Anything planners can do to help people navigate the permitting and logistics of pulling off these kinds of events is time well spent.

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