Tactical urbanism in Canberra since 2019

The urban development process in the ACT is thorough but slow. Unfortunately, these processes are neither particularly creative nor flexible. Tactical urbanism tries to fix that.

What is tactical urbanism?

Imagine two people talking on a street corner. “How about we try out a few ideas to improve Woden Town Centre with any feasibility study, development application or approval?” This sounds scary to a process focused on accountability. The other replies, “OK, but it has to be cheap, temporary and easy to remove.”

That’s tactical urbanism. It is a place to try things out. Planters, seats and tables are brought in on the back of a truck. Set up in a few days and opened to the public.

It is anything but thorough. It is haphazard and learning through trial and error. Mistakes are accepted as part of the process.

An important part of tactical urbanism engages the public in improving the ideas. The government takes on board their suggestions and sends in a forklift to move things around and fix them immediately. The process of improvement is iterative. Finally, if people like the setup we can make it permanent. No hurry. We have many of the benefits now.

That is an agile way of doing urban development. Tactile urbanism is a feasibility study of sorts. It is, however, getting out and trying it, rather than a paper exercise. The old way of urban planning has its place but is slow and methodical but sometimes disappoints in cost, time and expectations. The design of the playground in Coombs on Edgeworth Parade is a good example of how messy the paper method can get. Both have their place. Tactile urbanism is suited to projects where a high level of community involvement in the design process is required.

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The Woden Experiment

Back in 2019 there was a good example of tactical urbanism in Woden.

Woden Experiment begins next week – Chief Minister, Treasury and Economic Development Directorate, 1 March 2019

“Visitors to the Woden Town Square will enjoy an exciting new outdoor space from next Wednesday, 6 March (2019) when the new upgrades featuring picnic settings, activity and event spaces, and play opportunities is unveiled for the public.”

Woden Experiment begins next week – Chief Minister, Treasury and Economic Development Directorate, 1 March 2019

““We hope the upgrades to the square will attract more people to use this challenging and often windy space.

“It’s a genuine experiment. If the installations work we’ll make them permanent, if not we’ll go back to the drawing board.”

Woden Experiment begins next week – Chief Minister, Treasury and Economic Development Directorate, 1 March 2019

““The ACT Government is also upgrading public spaces in other Town Centres but the Woden Experiment is important because following an evaluation of the project’s impact it will help inform a new place making guide to be used for other projects in Canberra.”

Woden Experiment begins next week – Chief Minister, Treasury and Economic Development Directorate, 1 March 2019
Photo by Tatiana Syrikova on Pexels.com

Place making

Place making sounds abstract, but the idea is simple. We want town centres to be attractive and places that people would like to go and stay. This is the essence of good urban design. Making places that people want to be.

Previously, the town centres in the ACT have been places for work quickly deserted after hours and on weekends. The shopping centres increase weekend use of the space. Big box shopping centres such as Westfield are internally focus and the surrounds largely deserted.

The ACT Government desires to change this.

Photo by Allan Mas on Pexels.com

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