Isthmus

City |

Tactical urbanism.
Streets for people.

Approach

The Innovating Streets for People programme (20192021) by Waka Kotahi provided councils across Aotearoa the opportunity to engage in new ways of imagining, designing, and building their streets—contributing to a larger goal of creating safe, liveable, low-carbon streets with more transport choice. Working with councils across the motu gave us the unique opportunity to rapidly test a wide range of tactical, agile and collaborative design approaches that have delivered real change.  

Left. The installation of a trial cycleway up Wellington’s Brooklyn Hill tests a re-allocation of road space.

We worked with councils in Invercargill, Auckland and Wellington to quickly test city-shaping ideas in real-time with the community. These projects used small and often playful interventions to challenge people to rethink how they see and use their streets; a tactical urbanism approach enabled phased improvements to urban transport corridors to be delivered quickly and affordably.  Each project had specific constraints, challenges, and opportunities but all used temporary, low-cost interventions allowing ideas to be tested, and adapted in real time, rapidly exposing what works and what doesn’t. Small interventions using a simple palette of materials and elements—such as cones, planters, and paint—challenged users to rethink how they see and use space, contributing to the larger goal of creating safe, liveable streets. The tactical approach means ideas can be tested, measured and adjusted in a way that is simply not possible if undertaking a permanent public works project.

Left. Participatory co-design processes allowed the community to input ideas and provide feedback during and after the installation of temporary, tactical projects. 

In all four cities we trialled ‘road-diets’, to tip the balance and make streets and work for people, not just vehicles. With densification and population growth more users need to be accommodated for within existing road spacefinding more space for people requires something to give—the changes that the best solutions require demands positive public support. The most successful projects of this nature are a result of positive and meaningful interactions with clients, stakeholders, and the community, striving for win-win outcomes that address multiple challenges. We make the design process accessible and easy to understand for everyone. With a range of tools and techniques we invite users to participate in the design process and in doing so build community ‘ownership’ into the project outcome

By clearly defining the problem with people, we establish the essential things to test and prototype and generate solutions that are purposeful and meaningful. We have been able to help reconnect people to place and help them lead a muchneeded rebalancing of road space. 

Brooklyn Hill, Wellington.


Many people on bikes did not feel safe on Brooklyn Road, especially traveling uphill towards Brooklyn due to significant speed differentials. Already part of the City Cycleway Master Plan which aims to develop a connected, citywide bike network, this project also aligns with the Council’s and Let’s Get Wellington Moving’s plans to move more people with fewer vehicles, and the Council’s Te Atakura goal to be net-zero carbon capital by 2050.

The tactical trial resulted in unanimous councilor support to progress to a permanent solution. The participatory design process ensured people really knew what the trial was aiming to test and the use of tactical urbanism ensured people were able to provide feedback based on their personal experience of actually using it as a cyclist, vehicle driver, pedestrian, or local resident.  

‘The cycle lane—when fully set up—is fantastic. I feel very safe for most of it and I’m sure that when you make it permanent you will iron out kinks such as some of the transitions from road to footpath and back.’—Tim Harford.

The tactical trial resulted in unanimous councilor support to progress to a permanent solution. The participatory design process ensured people really knew what the trial was aiming to test and the use of tactical urbanism ensured people were able to provide feedback based on their personal experience of actually using it as a cyclist, vehicle driver, pedestrian, or local resident.

Te Atamira a Te Iwi—The People’s Platform, Wellington.


For the Wellington communities of Newtown and Te Aro we designed, developed, installed, and activated vibrant parklets in street parking spaces. Embraced by the community, these parklets have featured craft sessions, backgammon competitions, DJs, and a lesson to tamariki on how to fix a punctured bike tyre.

“The Parklet pop-ups support the community in their desire to take the reins and show us what they want in their neighbourhoods, to be involved in co-creating street design changes”—Mayor Andy Foster 

Working with constructors we developed a low-cost, easy-to-build system that would be compliant and adaptable to a range of uses. These colourful timber constructions were installed in multiple locations and used in different ways. Wellington City Council are now developing a process for businesses to apply for parklets on a more permanent basis going forward. 

Ponsonby Road, Auckland.


In preparation for future required upgrades along the iconic Ponsonby Road in Auckland we were asked to use tactical urbanism to test ideas intended to create a more vibrant and people friendly environment. Community co-design workshops helped identify street challenges and optimum locations to test ideas to improve the urban experience. Our process has carefully navigated stakeholder groups and Auckland Transport’s regulatory technical approvals process to result in a bespoke ‘kit of parts’, ready to be installed and configured to suit the individual requirements while keeping with the local character of this unique street precinct and meeting the expectations of quality and safety. 

Once installed, on-going street activations and monitoring will strengthen stakeholder relationships and generate data to build on into future works. The project continues to be debated and refined across the stakeholder groups, growing beyond the original scope of Innovating Streets into a wider programme of works by Auckland Transport. This will inform longer term strategic improvements to Ponsonby Road. Initial works are set to be installed in early 2022. 

Tactical Tasters, Invercargill.


Invercargill’s central city is undergoing substantial and exciting change—several major building developments are well underway. Together with Council, mana whenua and the community we developed a master plan envisaging a city to inhabit, enjoy and to be proud of, reflective of Invercargill’s rich cultural history and better connected to its natural environment. In addition, we used tactical urbanism to quickly bring ideas from the master plan to life providing people a taste of what Invercargill’s future can feel like. We worked with local businesses, community, schools, and interest groups to imagine activations and street transformations. As well as community-led experiments and conversations around what shelter from the southern elements could look like in the city centre. 

The Deveron Street Activated Cycle Route is one of the projects underway. This pilot/trial project for improved cycling connections was kicked off with the Deveron Detour event, a family friendly day designed to help change people’s perceptions about coming into town by bike. 

Clients
Auckland Transport
Invercargill City Council
Wellington City Council

Collaborators
Aurecon
Abley
WSP
Gap Filler
GHD
Flow