Image by Gordon Douglas, via Good

Bravo to Good for their nice profile of DIY urbanism initiatives–From Portland to Los Angeles to New York (all pattern cities), they provide many exciting examples.

While there is some obvious crossover between the DIY efforts included in the GOOD piece and our Tactical Urbanism report–which was published on this website a few weeks ago–the recent spate of articles on the subject is now beginning to illuminate two important differences.

One, DIY efforts are enacted from the bottom-up, not the top down. In other words, individuals or small groups of people work together to make an improvement or to communicate a message, typically at the scale of the urban block or building. Tactical Urbanism, however, allows both bottom-up and top-down initiatives to proliferate. Thus, you can DIY, or sometimes, if you are luck enough to have progressive leadership, the city may do it for you (DIFY?).

Two, building on this last point, some DIY urbanism efforts are focused primarily on communicating an important social message or opinion, and therefore do not provide a low cost way to test a long term improvement, which is the end result sought by most Tactical Urbanism efforts. As an example, the above image, by Gordon Douglas, signifies distress over the loss of a medieval era cemetery in London. However, it does not provide any tactics, per se, for dealing with the perceived problem.

Or, to use another example, Open Streets Initiatives (ciclovias), are great in and of themselves, but they are also intended to bring about more permanent change on many fronts, and not just on the day on which they are held. DIY urbanism, while highly valuable, cannot always make that promise and does not aim to organize something like an Open Streets Initiative, which ostensibly requires a lot of coordination with official government entities…sorta takes the Y out of DIY, no?

Nonetheless, we obviously need both types of initiatives, and who is to say that DIY can’t lead to a more tactical effort, which in turn, can lead to a more permanent change?

Thus, keep it up guerillas and tacticians, your work is sorely needed.

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