Everyday Urbanism: Celebrating Ordinary Life in the City

Everyday urbanism celebrates and builds on the ordinary life and reality in a city. It doesn’t envision an ideal urban environment. Rather it explores ways to improve what already exists in incremental ways. The term first gained prominence with the book, Everyday Urbanism by Margaret Crawford, John Chase and John Kaliski in 1999. The book notes that the city (and its planners) ongoing quest to incorporate “the elements that remain elusive: ephemerality, cacophony, multiplicity and simultaneity.”

Every day urbanism builds on the concept of adaptive urbanism and looks at urban planning as a process of perpetual engagement and reiteration. It views cities as a conversation between and among its residents. This leads to a dynamic urban form that evolves not from outside pressures or plans dropped from above, but from activities that occur within a neighborhood.

If you have spent anytime in a city, you no doubt have witnessed small, understated, often ratty spaces that are teaming with life and vibrancy next door to large master planned developments that look like ghost towns. This is the impact of everyday urbanism. Vibrancy can not be planned in a board room, it needs to evolve on the street level trough regular ‘everyday’ interactions.

But unlike DIY urbanism, everyday urbanism isn’t simply a bottom up, grass roots approach. Rather, it is a mixture of the residents’ bottom-up expression of their economic, political and social preferences and the top-down decision-making process of developers and city governments. Vibrancy may no be able to be planned, but it certainly can be encouraged. Developers and city governments can help everyday urbanism survive and thrive by ending their quest for the ‘big urbanist’ mega projects and understanding that often times tiny gestures make the biggest different a difference.”

Check out the full ABC’s of Urbanism in this handy e-book!

DIY Urbansim: City Building from the Bottom-Up

‘Do it Yourself’ (DIY) Urbanism provides a counterweight to traditional top-down urban planning processes. Even before the the “great recession” in 2008 many cities struggled with reduced public resources. This has left various urbanists, artists, and public space advocates to fill many of the voids left by the cutbacks.

In addition to participating in official processes, such as writing letters to the city or attending public meetings, DIY urbanists take public outreach one step further. Rather than simply seeking public input, DIY urbanism empowers residents to make the changes they seek and are create their own positive urban interventions. It is the DIY ethic on the community scale.
The result has been innovative do-it-yourself projects ranging from activating stalled construction sites, to constructing temporary public plazas and parks at street intersections, to designing pop-up storefronts. They can even include more bizarre ideas including guerilla painting, urban campgrounds and street pianos.

The possibilities are limitless. Although many DIY initiatives may often be temporary, the impact is often substantial. In some cases DIY interventions have acted as pilot projects that improve the chances of city government officials eventually buying in and supporting the changes in an official way.

Regardless of the type initiative, or their permanence, DIY efforts should not be viewed as disruptive violations, or frivolous novelties, but as signs of true urban vitality. With a can-do attitude and a bit of playful mischievousness, these urban pioneers are illustrating that another type of city is possible.

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    Check out the full ABC’s of Urbanism in this handy e-book!

    Collaborative Urbanism: The Secret is Sharing

    Our urban society is undergoing a substantive shift from the hyper-consumerism and the resultant sprawl that defined the second half of the 20th century. Forces such as social technologies, a renewed belief in community, increased environmental awareness, and cost consciousness have us rethinking our old top-heavy and centralized forms of consumerism. In its place, a ‘collaborative urbanism’—based on sharing, aggregation, openness, and cooperation—is emerging.

    The trend towards increased collaboration is explained in-depth in the newly published book, What’s Mine Is Yours: The Rise of Collaborative Consumption by Rachel Botsman and Roo Rogers. Collaborative urbanism takes their concept a step further; not only is collaborative consumption reshaping how we consume, it is transforming how we interact with each other and the spaces around us. In other words, it is changing how we live in cities.

    Read the full post here.

    Check out the full ABC’s of Urbanism in this handy e-book!

    Big Urbanism: Not the Answer

    Americans like to think ‘big.’ Urbanism is no exception. Ever since architect and urban planner Daniel Burnham uttered his maxim “Make no little plans,” nearly every urban plan continues to be modeled on it.

    Despite a generation of planners brought up guided by Jane Jacobs and her crusade against the big urbanism of Robert Moses, large-scale redevelopment projects continue apace. Indeed, they appear to be regaining prominence. From Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn to CityCenter in Las Vegas to the various uber- developments in Dubai, city officials and developers continue to think ‘big’ when reshaping our cities.

    However, as we previous learned in the post on adaptive urbanism, big urbanism is not necessarily a good thing. Indeed, these mega projects leave little room for flexibility, and as such are not responsive to shifting economic, environmental or political trends. As a result several big urbanism projects are viewed as relics even before their doors are open.

    Check out the full ABC’s of Urbanism in this handy e-book!

    Adaptive Urbanism: A Process of Perpetual Engagement

    For many urban observers, and especially urban planners, the design of the city as an ‘end state—a vision to be first created and then fulfilled.

    Adaptive urbanism takes a contrary position. It looks at urban design as a process of perpetual engagement and reiteration. In an adaptive approach, cities are dynamic ecologies that take immersion and collaboration to re-shape, not from outside or above, but from within. The concept of adaptive urbanism is often attributed to New York urbanist Brian McGrath.

    McGrath’s approach is a significant shift from how we current plan and manage cities. It is important to consider though, especially in our current economic and social upheaval. If cities develop the flexibility and capacity to respond to shifting demands and external pressures, they will be better able to deal with future economic, environmental or political crises.

     

    Check out the full ABC’s of Urbanism in this handy e-book!

    The ABC’s of Urbanism

    One of the pervasive trends in contemporary urban studies is the dramatic growth in terms ending with ‘urbanism.’ It seems like every urban thinker has come up with his or her own urbanism. Indeed, Jason King at landscape+urbanism has described this phenomenon as [Fill in the Blank] Urbanism and come up with his own lengthy list of urbanisms gleaned from a single Google search.

    Some of the urbanisms are fanciful and esoteric; others are basic and rudimentary. But all have been seriously considered by at least one person. Indeed, if a term or concept is even remotely connected to a city, simply add ‘urbanism to the end and you’ll have a new theoretical construct to explore.

    Over the next 26 posts, I will be exploring an urbanism associated with each letter of the alphabet. 26 posts covering 26 urban constructs. At the end of each post I will list other urbanisms associated with the letter in question.

     

    Check out the full ABC’s of Urbanism in this handy e-book!