In a city, where myriad interests are often in competition at any given spot, “public engagement” is a slippery term that raises the important and oft-ignored question: Which public? Before the evaluation of urban tactics can begin, one must define the group or groups of people they are working to engage. As architects and designers develop tactics to address specific sites and conditions, how are they deciding which groups to orient their projects toward? Beyond that, how can various factors—demographics, geography, politics, et al.—change the way that different publics view and engage with different tactics?
In recent years tactical urbanism has moved from the fringe of architectural and urban design practice to the center. However, because these works often skirt the edges of activist art and nonprofit community organizing it is difficult to determine a project’s success in relationship to design, outreach, and influence over policy. As tactical practices shift to the mainstream, how do we evaluate and critique this diverse range of architectural actions and urban interventions? What belongs on a post-occupancy punchlist for best tactical practices?
3. TACTICS AND THE DESIGN PROFESSIONS
As global political and social changes pressure how designers work, many practices are using their design skills to tactically confront environmental, political, and economic issues at all scales. Some of these tactical practices break with traditional disciplinary boundaries and expand the role of the designer.
How is practice changing to tactically address environmental, social, and political issues in the built environment? What further changes are necessary to tackle these large problems with ever-decreasing funding? What steps should the profession take to address these contemporary pressures?
Where does the notion of failure come from and why is it rearing its head again now? While failure might work in software and startups, what happens when we apply that ethic to interventions at the scale of buildings and cities? How can the fail-early-fail-often tactic be used for urban change—such as hackathons, or pilot programs like San Francisco’s parklets? Is failure related to the temporary or the long term?