Tactical Urbanism boosts parental cool factor

Photo by Matt Ashby.

Photo by Matt Ashby.

by Matt Ashby, AICP CUD, Cheyenne, Wyoming

By now, you've probably at least heard of tactical urbanism, if not participated in a workshop that seeks to temporarily transform leftover places into vibrant spaces. The trend has been vaulted into the spotlight by National Park(ing) Day. Always the third Friday in September, this new national holiday for planners has been occupying underutilized parking spaces for 11 years.   The movement started in 2005 when Rebar, a San Francisco art and design studio, converted a single metered parking space into a temporary public park in downtown San Francisco.

Park(ing) Day Hits Home

Recently, my interest converting car-dominated spaces took a more personal turn. As my soon to be 11-year old was making plans for her birthday, pursing the place where all good ideas come from - Pinterest - she stumbled across the "cooler than cool" idea to host a movie in the backyard. But to my planner mind, what better way to embrace tactical urbanism than make a statement in your own driveway?

The beauty of the movement is that you essentially work with what you got. In my case problem #1) where to project the movie? Naturally, on a flat surface where we could hang up a white sheet. Attached to the garage door with clamps that would offset Wyoming's slight summer breeze. Problem #2) where to sit? Being kids, chairs weren't really an option. Leading into a sleepover, the movie really needed someplace for the girls to huddle under blankets atop bean bags. Not wanting to plant them on the hard driveway, the obvious solution was sitting just a few feet away in the garage; we backed up the pickup truck and turned it into our drive-in movie. We added a bit of mood lighting and tiki torches staked in movable planters, along with a patio umbrella to help frame the space.  Instant karma with your kiddo!

So if you don't think you're ready to launch a tactical urbanism campaign upon your community, why not test it out in your kids? They might just start to think your job isn't so boring after all.

Photo by Mat Ashby.

Photo by Mat Ashby.


Matt Ashby, AICP CUD, is an urban planner with Ayres Associates in its Cheyenne, Wyoming office. He has helped cultivate a vision for Wyoming’s Capitol City while spearheading innovative endeavors like the West Edge brownfields revitalization project as the Planning Services Director for the City of Cheyenne. He serves as a member of the Western Planning Resources Board.


Published in January 2017

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