One strategy for making cities for people comes from the people operating in the placemaking and tactical urbanism movements. Place-led city-making emerged as a response to the failings of design-led city-making. The placemaking movement showed it’s possible to overcome inertia of governments and community impasses through building a shared vision and getting short-term wins, and that you do not need professional designers to make successful places. And, that within many people there is an inherent skill to make places which others would enjoy.
These parallel and interwoven movements have rightfully put the spotlight on community and user involvement in place projects, and injected resourcefulness and fun into making parts of cities better. The movement has identified that at times the thinking learned in design, planning, and engineering education fails to create great places.
In contrast to design-led urbanism the focus is on action (that may be followed by a professional design process). When compared to design-led projects, these places usually express their character more quickly through the actions of many diverse groups, and feel more authentic such as the Thames South Bank. Recently the Tactical Urbanists Guide to Materials and Design has been released further strengthening the body of knowledge for this approach.
Criticism of these types of projects is that:
They don't address fundamental design issues.
They lack in professional prestige and respect.
They won't make a bigger enough impact or be robust enough to last.
Execution can be perceived as low-quality, cheap, or tacky.
Activations can be spread too thinly, appear a bit random, and have diluted impact.
The upside of place-led urbanism is so strong that most leading cities (rather than designers) are experimenting with these approaches. The learnings from these movements need to be incorporated into agile city-making for the era of digital transformation.