Physical distancing has been reduced, but does that mean we can forget creating more space for people? We need to re-inhabit the city, connect with each other and support local shops, bars, restaurants and venues. During lockdown we discovered new ways of moving around the city; less cars, more cycling and walking. What can we retain from these new experiences to make a more people friendly city centre?
Tactical Master Planning.
We have been thinking about our different city experiences during lockdown. Isthmus designers; Oriane Merindol, Stefanie Graze, Brennan Baxley, and Frank Hoffmann have developed a tactical master plan that could help re-inhabit the city while maintaining some of the new things we liked. This initiative aims to provide a framework for innovative change by supporting the work of many different groups advocating for a more people friendly Wellington. In this Thinking article Nick Kapica describes how a systematic approach to tactical urbanism could be a catalyst for change.
Re-inhabit the city
Many people enjoyed more space to move through the city, more space on city transportation has been a pleasure. If the virus spreads again we may even need to return to level 2 or 3 and need more space again. Finding this space provides a great opportunity to explore what city spaces designed for people—not traffic—would look like. Temporary, low cost interventions—tactical urbanism—allow design changes to be tested, and adapted in real time, rapidly exposing what works and what doesn’t. Small interventions using simple tools—such as cones, planters, and paint—challenge users to rethink how they see and use space, contributing to the larger goal of creating safe, liveable streets for people. Ideas can be tried in a way that is simply not possible if undertaking a permanent public works project.
Mindset for radical transformation
City improvements typically take a long time; problems need to be identified, ideas developed, public consulted, negotiations undertaken—before any detailed design, procurement, and implementation can take place. Often when all this has happened the idea has shifted and the solution is no longer fit for purpose. Agile is an approach to product development in which needs and solutions evolve through collaboration between self-organizing, cross-functional teams. While it is primarily used for software development we have adapted the Agile Manifesto for Urban Design. This provides the right mindset for radical transformation. Agile promotes adaptive planning, evolutionary development, early delivery, continuous improvement, and encourages rapid and flexible response to change. This approach provides an open and continuous communications strategy, that shares ideas quickly and uses feedback effectively. With this mindset this tactical master plan can quickly deliver useful improvements to the city that will also help us learn where the next interventions need to happen.
Master planning tactical urbanism
While individual improvements and modifications are good—a systemic city-wide approach to finding more space for people will be the most effective. Central Wellington is an ideal laboratory to prototype ideas for the future city through ongoing tactical urbanism interventions. We have drawn on our city shaping urban design expertise and developed a ‘tactical’ master plan that supports the integration of many tactical interventions. The founding principles of the tactical urbanism movement to reclaim, re-design and re-programme city spaces can be applied citywide to discover what a people friendly city would look like for Wellington. The best master plans provide the right balance of certainty and flexibility to realise a clear vision. Through interrogating existing and potential amenity this tactical master plan will provide more space for people, create better connections, and improve the central city experience. This tactical master plan is focused around four key moves that provide the framework for smaller detailed ideas to take place as tactical explorations.
Change is hard and resources are limited so prototyping small interventions within an overall plan will help citizens understand the opportunities and benefits.
Streets are public spaces enabling vital social interactions, not only traffic corridors.
Efficient and safe movement of people and goods is key for a sustainable and economically thriving Wellington.
The best ideas will emerge from active and continuous participation with Wellingtonians.
Four key moves
Define a tactical zone with legislation that allows continuous tactical interventions.
Redefine priorities of transportation modes and strengthen routes for active transportation.
Move cars to the city edge and re-consider the wide range of uses that could inhabit this space.
Involve users in continuous idea generation and feedback, start small, test and refine, expand the projects one step at a time.