Reclaiming Our Cities from Corporate Rule



The Official Guide to Tactical Urbanism

City Lab (2012)

Free PDF: Tactical Urbanism 2

Book Review

The Official Guide to Tactical Urbanism is an encyclopedia of tactics employed by community activists (worldwide) to reclaim city streets from cars and corporations. The goal: to create more public spaces to facilitate community engagement and interaction.

Young people in the US and other industrial countries have been abandoning cars for public and active transport. Yet city authorities (plagued by budget problems since the 2008 financial crash) have been extremely slow to undertake the infrastructure upgrades necessary to facilitate a transition to car free neighborhoods. Many activists, fed up with the futility of lobbying municipal authorities, are employing guerilla tactics to undertake these infrastructure upgrades themselves.

This publication offers a detailed history (dating back to the 1500s) of  “unsanctioned” uses of public space, most of which go on to be legitimatized by local authorities. Among many other tactics, The Official Guide to Tactical Urbanism describes the creation of

  • Play streets – in which neighborhoods make their own signs and designate streets car free to create play areas for kids (and parents)

play-streetA London play street


Jackson Heights (NYC) car free play space

  • Guerilla gardening – in which activists garden on public or private land without permission


  • Pop-up cafes – tactic to promote public seating in the parking lane and to promote local businesses

pop-up-cafeTrading parking space for outdoor seating improves the public realm

  • De-paving – removing pavement to reduce storm water pollution and increase the amount of land available for habitat restoration, urban farming, tree planting, native vegetation and social gathering.

depavingDepaving in action

  • Chair bombing – creating impromptu public seating to improve the social well-being of
    neighborhoods, both by salvaging waste and activating the public realm.

chair-bombingChairs placed adjacent to Brooklyn’s Blue Bottle Cafe

  • Intersection repair – repurposing community intersections for community space rather than vehicle traffic.

intersection-repairAn intersection repair project in Los Angeles

  • Reclaimed setbacks (aka lawn liberation) – creating a more engaging streetscape by activating the space between the street and structures.