The Difference Between ‘Tactical’ and ‘DIY’ Urbanism

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 a very progressive leadership, the city may do it for you (DIFY).

Two, building of 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 much-loved neighborhood asset in London. However, it does not provide an tactics, per se, in dealing with the perceived problem.