Doxa The Interventionist’s Toolkit
Mimi Zeiger of Design Observer has started an ongoing series on DIY Urbanism called “The Interventionist’s Toolkit.” In each part, she addresses common themes and examples of DIY Urbanism, such as temporal cultural events, urban gardening, and other public interventions.
Economic recessions have often produced great times of experimentation in architecture, beginning with the growth of theoretical practice and postmodern writings about space during the 1970s. Zeiger characterizes the current urban interventions as “Provisional, Opportunistic, Ubiquitous, and Odd Tactics in Guerilla and DIY Practice and Urbanism.” These typically involve architects, landscape architects, artists, and urbanists addressing the built environment from outside of conventional professional boundaries. The premise of these urban interventions is based on the desire to reclaim the streets as central public social spaces of neighborhoods. For Zeiger, “these projects hold at their heart a belief that change is possible despite economic or political obstacles, or disciplinary or institutional inertia.”
The most recent, Part 3, titled “Our Cities, Ourselves,” presents a series of dichotomies that arise when attempted to evaluate the effectiveness of urban interventions. Factors that significantly impact the execution and response of projects include the intent, source, audience, scale, and ultimate impact. Her article discusses dichotomies between institutions and grassroots organizations, social identity and politics, tactical practice and ideologies.
Unlike buildings, there are fewer quantitative ways to measure the effectiveness of urban interventions, especially temporal ones. Often this success is perceived in terms of an event’s popularity in media. For urban designers and interventionists alike, “there’s a real risk that the know-how to represent and market a project will trump the more substantial matters of content, impact and value.”
Zeiger ultimately comes to the conclusion that “the real success for DIY urbanism will be based not on any one project; it’ll happy when we can evaluate the movement based on outreach, economic impact, community empowerment, entrepreneurship, sustainability and design.”