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October 11, 2011 / Leo Hollis

Ripping up the Street

The power of the internet to connect and inform is always astonishing. While researching street improvement schemes I came across the very clever people at Better Block http://betterblock.org a Texas based group who have some very exciting ideas and projects about how the city can be improved from the bottom up. They challenge the neighbourhood to improve itself, and under stand that the metropolis can be transformed bit by bit and over a very long period of time.

This summer they set a 72 hour challenge to see what they could achieve on a single street in Dallas over three days. see how they got on here: http://betterblock.org/challenge/ There was also a great video that they made of the project

I also heard about another cool group from Portland Oregan, Depave http://www.depave. org who are reclaiming disused roads and pavements and replacing them with temporary gardens. Here is a photo from a recent project in Frazer Park, preparing for a new community area.

These are clearly disruptive, temporary and joyful exercises that may only last the weekend but they remind us how malleable the city can be and how we can change it for ourselves when we can be bothered. It is the being bother not the intransigence of the city that we sometimes confuse.

Both of these groups let me know about Tactical Urbanism who published this fascinating primer on urban action: http://www.scribd.com/doc/51354266/Tactical-Urbanism-Volume-1

Here are the golden rules which are well worth considering when setting out on a new project:

1. Be gradual – don’t do everything at once

2. Think about local solutions to local problems

3. make short term promises and realistic goals

4. aim for low risk projects with high social rewards

5. Consider the social capital of your project alongside all other things.

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