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Do-It-Yourself Urban Design – New Research

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critical research on tactical urbanism's contributions and areas of concern


DIY Urbanism

“Unauthorized alterations” in cities is not new, but traditionally been regarded as unwanted (think graffiti).  However a new generation of DIY (do-it-yourself) urbanists are initiating unauthorized changes with urban services in mind.  These span functions such as homemade bike lanes, DIY wayfinding, “guerrilla” landscaping and gardens.  While blogs and many in the urban planning world celebrate changes, cities are more cautious.

Professor Gordon C. C. Douglas from the University of Chicago examines the existing theories and evidence from interviews and other fieldwork in 14 cities in order to develop the new analytical category of DIY urban design.   His definition is activity that is analogous to formal and official efforts.  DIY urban design has wide-ranging implications for both local communities and broader urban policy, in particular in communities that feel underserved within capital improvement budgets.

The article, titled “Do-It-Yourself Urban Design: The Social Practice of Informal “Improvement Through Unauthorized Alteration” was published in the journal City & Community, September 16, 2013 and is available free online in pdf form (639K, 21 pages).  Photo a screenshot from the Vimeo.

Key Quote:

This study identifies and analyzes [unauthorized alterations] that has been largely ignored in social science: explicitly functional and civic-minded informal contributions that I call “do-it-yourself urban design.” Gordon C.C. Douglas

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