DIY Urbanism: City Building from the Bottom-Up

DIY urbanism

Photo credit: bixentro on Flickr

‘Do it Yourself’ (DIY) Urbanism provides a counterweight to traditional top-down urban planning processes. Even before the “great recession” in 2008 many cities struggled with reduced public resources. This has left various urbanists, artists, and public space advocates to fill many of the voids left by the cutbacks.

In addition to participating in official processes, such as writing letters to the city or attending public meetings, DIY urbanists take public outreach one step further. Rather than simply seeking public input, do it yourself urbanism empowers residents to make the changes they seek and are create their own positive urban interventions. It is the DIY ethic on the community scale.

The result has been innovative do-it-yourself projects ranging from activating stalled construction sites, to constructing temporary public plazas and parks at street intersections, to designing pop-up storefronts. They can even include more bizarre ideas including guerilla painting, urban campgrounds and street pianos.

The possibilities are limitless. Although many DIY initiatives may often be temporary, the impact is often substantial. In some cases do-it-yourself interventions have acted as pilot projects that improve the chances of city government officials eventually buying in and supporting the changes in an official way.

Regardless of the type of initiative or their permanence, DIY efforts should not be viewed as disruptive violations or frivolous novelties, but as signs of true urban vitality. With a can-do attitude and a bit of playful mischievousness, these urban pioneers are illustrating that another type of city is possible.

Other ‘D’ urbanisms:

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Yuri Artibise

Yuri Artibise is an experienced policy analyst, community engagement practitioner and social media specialist. I have a Master of Public Administration degree with over 10 years of public policy research, analysis, and advocacy experience.