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Developed as a tool and guide for the City and County of Denver - February 2016

Action Oriented Planning Tools

GEHL STUDIO - SAN FRANCISCO Delivered to the City and County of Denver - February 2016 Project Leader: Jeff Risom, MSc City Design & Social Science, Managing Director Project Architect: Camilla Siggaard Andersen, MA Architecture & Urban Planning Team: Blaine Merker (Urban Designer) & Anna Muessig (City Planning) Photo Credits: Gehl Studio San Francisco (unless otherwise specified)

Action-Oriented Planning Tools

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Contents Introduction


Action-Oriented Planning Methodology


Three Key Project Steps


Catalogue of 6 Case Studies




1. Park(ing) Day, Worldwide


2. Times Square, New York


3. Open Streets, Worldwide


4. Village Éphémère, Montreal


5. The Porch, Philadelphia


6. Market St Prototyping Festival, San Francisco


Further Inspiration & Vocabulary

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Introduction Action-Oriented Planning Need for A New Planning Approach The current process of public realm planning in the United States, typically takes a linear and direct path towards realizing a project, with a limited time-frame for community outreach. Though evolved (and improved) from an earlier complete lack of public engagement in the urban planning profession, the system has developed in such a way that it gives people who want to stop progress the most prominence. Action-Oriented Planning aims to revert this tendency, by actively encouraging and inviting yes-sayers to take part in a process that is anything but linear. Historical Tendencies Between the 1950s-80s, urban renewal-era “campaigns”, instigated by the politicians and undertaken by the city planners, ushered in strategic planning projects and large scale infrastructure projects that expanded highways and implemented skyscrapers in almost all US cities. This top-down approach was challenged and ultimately replaced between the 1980s-2000s by a focus on community engagement and consultation, prioritizing the “human experience”, community desires, and marginalized groups. Unfortunately, an unanticipated consequence of the success of community-driven planning, was that many projects ended up getting stalled in a formal decision-making process. Overworked, and underfunded, municipal divisions are often unable to do meaningful outreach, or have outreach-fatigue. Historic lows in civic participation nationwide, the increasingly complex and dynamic nature of

cities, and the fact that community involvement is often hijacked by a vocal minority, mean many communities have developed a culture of “no” rather than a culture of possibility. City managers and other development agents adjust presentations and expectations, so as to make as few changes as possible, as a result of public feedback. The system of community outreach in our urban change process is not fully leveraging citizens as resources, in part because of this wellmeaning, but poorly functioning, process. The results are expensive and time-intensive outreach processes that have little impact on development projects; dedicated community advocates frustrated by both planning fatigue and by not having their input taken seriously; and the mediocrity of design-by-committee. A Platform for “Yes” Culture at large is full of good, bold ideas to make our cities better for people. We just often don’t have the right system set up to take advantage of them. While no silver bullet, the mindset and suite of tools we are calling “Action-Oriented Planning” is intended to re-introduce legitimate community feedback into the process. Action-Oriented Planning uses pilot projects as community engagement tools in-and-of-themselves, and as a tool to learn about how design decisions actually hit the ground, thereby improving the final implementation. Artists and community activists have long used the transformational power of physical experience to argue for alternative futures.

The inventiveness of these insurgent actors have lately been increasingly borrowed by traditional institutions of urban change. As stakes are higher, budgets smaller, and communities more vocal, cities have turned to these action-oriented tactics to break through stalemates, generate new ideas for old problems, and to meaningfully engage communities in the process. Action-Oriented Planning is distinguished from “Tactical Urbanism”, by an increased emphasis on measurement and evaluation as the guiding star of strategy. Pilot projects can be worthless without strategic vision or when support for iteration is missing. Measuring impacts is one way to stay true to a strategic vision and to engage many perspectives by telling stories through objective measures. A Guide for Practitioners This report defines practices of ActionOriented Planning. It is intended to be a howto for urban change managers interested in engaging communities in new ways, to reach better outcomes in their cities. It outlines how Action-Oriented Planning layers on to the traditional planning process, how to approach a pilot project, and how to establish evaluation and measurement methods. It creates typologies of projects using case studies that highlight the behindthe-scenes work involved, and the scale and timeframe of successful projects. Happy action-ing!


Action-Oriented Planning Methodology

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Context Change of Planning Process TRADITIONAL PLANNING PROCESS The sequence of decision-making is primarily linear. Little room for change and the final project success is reliant on the initial identified need and solution.





input from decision-makers and designers/architects/engineers input from decision-makers and designers/architects/engineers

one design solution put forward one design solution put forward


permanent, high-quality, high-cost design implementation permanent, high-quality, high-cost design implementation

need to change project? need to change project?




ig te n d ig te n d


us d an us d an



s es de d s al rtaels te s evers eovnes tions i s olut s olu


er er pe feepde fee d rfa b ack r fo b k rm ocrm a n ce a n ce

nd establis fy a n regist h nee ali d ra o qu ased d establi tions s sh n b ify an e l e g e r istrat a on ion ds qu ased s b

choose one of three outcomes based on evaluation choose one of three outcomes based on evaluation

The sequence of decision-making relies on a feedback loop to inform the design solutions. Room for adaptation over time, creating a more resilient project process.

change project change project go back to feedback loop go back to feedback loop

implementation implementation

discard project discard project


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Traditional Planning

Action-Oriented Planning

Public Engagement

Citizen engagement and feedback is expressed through argument and stated preference

Citizen engagement and feedback is expressed through use and demonstrated preferences

Engagement is usually “off-site”

Projects create direct links between citizen, action and leaders - the project is usually “on-site”

Many ideas can be represented; testing relies on analysis and argument

A small number of ideas can be tested rapidly


Bigger changes in existing conditions can be tested, but at larger risk and cost Focused on strategic vision

NEW TOOLS FOR PLANNING This table identifies several key differences between Traditional Planning and Action-Oriented Planning. Both approaches can lead to success, and both come with trade-offs to consider. They also often occur as complements of one another.

Use of City Space

Action-Oriented Planning can be a strong political tool for decision-making, as it directly shows how changes to the public realm affect city life. This process of showing the opportunities, rather than simply telling, is usually manifested in a “pilot project” or in a “prototype”. Both terms refer to the idea of implementing an interim project at a 1:1 scale to gain more knowledge about what type of intervention is more appropriate to cover a suggested need.


Possibilities of tests are sometimes limited by existing conditions Focused on strategic vision

The project “site” is usually narrowly defined

Unlocks more civic assets as potential “sites”

The context or framework of the problem is strictly bounded

Enlarges the context of the problem or opens up for new context opportunities

Relies on graphic representation to envision what is possible - it “tells”

Uses built examples to envision what is possible - it “shows”

Requires design background and literacy to understand possibilities

Citizens can experience the vision in real-life and real-time Makeshift installations can fall short of the project’s ultimate potential

Design Tolerance

Design tends to be conservative, responding to a smaller set of consensus needs

Design can take risks and it responds quickly to changing and diverse needs

Risk Profile

Mistakes are difficult, expensive and take a long time to un-do

The public may like the temporary intervention more than the full strategic vision

Key Elements of Action-Oriented Planning: 1:1: Experienced on site at a ‘human scale’. User-focused: Ideas are either generated or highly informed by the public.

It can be difficult to engage key stakeholders

Feedback Loop: The process is highly iterative, incorporating lessons learned from evaluations of tests. Multi-disciplinary: Different perspectives bring new solutions to old problems. “Work-in-progress”: This approach is still in development, being tested and refined by the ‘first-movers’ every day.

Negative Feedback

The project tries to avoid negative feedback at all costs Criticism is high-risk

Makeshift, “low-resolution” installations can undermine the high-quality long-term vision

The project welcomes any kind of feedback; it makes the final project even better Criticism is low-risk


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Challenges The Tip of The Iceberg VISIBLE PROCESS - Physically Highly Visible - Implemented Quickly - Affordable (in the short-term)

UNDER THE SURFACE - Political Outreach - Surveys and Research - Information Meetings - Capacity Building - Knowledge Sharing - Evaluation Resources Essential to any action-oriented planning approach is effort and coordination that often can not be seen on the surface. The groundwork that must precede any kind of intervention, and the evaluation work that happens after, are both extensive processes, requiring time and resources. If some of these steps taking place “under the surface” are not considered, it is at the risk of the success of the overall project and goal. However, if the “invisible” tasks are carried out well, then the visible part of the project - the actual intervention - can be invaluable to catalyze change.


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Benefits Cities For People By People A CITY/CITIZEN COLLABORATION Action-Oriented Planning is neither “top-down” or “bottom-up” - it relies on both the city and its citizens.


ine-m ref ea sts u er

s u re - t e

st-refin e-te m easr ue ea -m

Action-Oriented Planning relies on a strong collaboration between the city and its citizens, in a process where both partners contribute to the success of a project. The city might take on the role as facilitator, while the citizens drive the actual change and inform the decisions. As the Pilot Projects move towards more long-term solutions, the direction is steered from both the top and bottom, ensuring a more holistic and resilient final outcome. This relationship helps the citizens build, and influence the building of, their own city creating a city for people, by people.


The City


Action-Oriented Planning

Traditional Planning

The Citizens

Action-Oriented Planning

Action-Oriented planning allows us to “jump the fence” to test the vision early in the process. In Traditional Planning, the road to achieve a vision can become very long, costly and difficult. Action-Oriented Planning is a way of “jumping across” the typical planning barriers, to get an early experience of how the vision actually manifests itself in the city. These user experiences can influence the way the vision is framed or executed, responding to proved needs and and opportunities.




current situation

current situation




Tr a









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Method Measure - Test - Refine The “Measure-Test-Refine” method is closely linked to an Action-Oriented Planning approach. With these three steps, interim initiatives are tested and evaluated to inform more permanent and more refined decision-making.


TEST (1:1)





Public Life

Establish New Behavior

Better Chance of Success

Measure the existing public life using observational studies, quantative data collection and qualitative surveys and registrations. Measure pedestrian counts and flows, types of activities (stationary) and user diversity and demographics.

Implement a pilot project that answers some of the needs established through the measurephase. Test how the use of the public space changes when the physical environment is changed. Are there new patterns of usage and users?

Use the learnings from the first two phases to refine the project’s next steps and/or permanent implementation. The next project implementation should have an even better chance of success based on the feedback-loop.

Public Space

Feedback On Experience

Measure the existing public space using qualitative and quantitative assessment tools. Study the quality of facades and the functions in the buildings surrounding the public space.

Investigate people’s new needs based on the impact of the pilot project on the public space and public life. Are users more or less happy to spend time in the public space? Are all socioeconomic groups represented?

User Experience & Needs Investigate people’s needs through intercept studies, both qualitative and quantitative. Questionnaires must be filled in by at least 1000 people to be representative for a quantitative study. Anecdotes and personal experiences can be collected from just a few representative users.









Evaluate Consider how the project has been successful, how it could be more successful and whether there is a basis for more tests or for permanent implementation.

Investment Benefits Long-term projects will be more cost-efficient and resilient if their performance has been tested and evaluated in advance. If the first pilot project does not reach the goals, consider running more tests until the right needs are met.

Acceptance and Ownership Projects that grow out of tests of real needs are more likely to be adopted by the local community, which ensures long-term use and therefore a more successful project.

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São Paulo, Brazil

Measure Before: Empty plaza with metro fences

Test Everyday activation: a place is defined by

and parking - little life was measured.

decks and movable urban furniture.


Refine Special event activation: a destination is established with cultural programs and evening activities.

The Porch at 30th Street Station, Philadelphia, USA

Measure Before: the space in front of the station

Test Project Phase 1: the plaza was pedestrianized

Refine Project Phase 2: Semi-permanent installation

is a parking area and no one lingers there

and movable furniture and a pop-up cafe implemented

(the porch swings) was implemented to refine the project


Three Key Project Steps

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1. Defining the Scope Empowering Change DEFINING OUTCOMES + SCOPE The first step of any Action-Oriented Planning project is to clearly define the focus and purpose of the project, and how it will be implemented. The following checklist is intended to bring clarity to instigators of Action-Oriented Planning projects at the beginning of their process. Project Focus? What problem/challenge is the project solving? Or, what untapped resources is the project trying to uncover? Past Learnings? What has been successful (and unsuccessful) about previous solutions? Can the project build on these learnings? Ease of Implementation? How feasible is the intervention in terms of time and resources? Who needs to be involved? Do they want to be involved? Who are the prototypers? What disciplines/type of people does the project need to involve? Iterative Loop? What is the measure-testrefine feedback loop? Who is the audience?

What is the platform for feedback? How is feedback evaluated and how is success measured? Public Impact? Does the project respond to feedback from public engagement? Will it impact people’s quality of life? How visible will the project be, both physically and via other platforms? Collaboration + Stakeholder Interest? Does the project relate to the goals of the core stakeholders? Does the project test new stakeholder/implementer relationships that can set an example for other processes? Alignment with Ongoing Projects? Does the project support ongoing city projects? Are there any private initiatives or interests that align with the project? Does the project enhance or reduce the impact of other initiatives. Long-term Perspective? Does the project support a long-term strategy? Can it work as a demonstration project for other parts of the city? Does it fit into statistical projections for future challenges and opportunities?

Flexibility & Resilience? Can the project adapt to feedback? Is it costly to alter parts of the design or can this be done on a regular basis in response to success? Diversity & Inclusiveness? Does the project support a socio-economically and demographically diverse range of stakeholders and users? Does the project provide something for an under-represented user group in the city? Connectivity + Accessibility? Does the project support walking, biking or public transit? Can the project link together neighborhoods or existing important destinations in the city? Is it accessible? Local Champions? Who is best suited to incorporate lessons into future planning efftors and to drive the project forward?

Design Development


Case Study of Moving Across the Compass A









Parklet Pilots (2009) Officially Managed / Short term






















Park(ing) Day (2005) User Instigated / Short Term


Design for Accessibility Parklet Manual 2.0 (March 2015)

from the front and provide an Parklet Design Standards (2015) unobstructed knee clearance that is at least 27 inches high, 30 inches Officially Managed Long wide/and 19 inches term deep. When

Wheelchair User Companion Seating. If fixed seating is part of parklet design, it should be configured to accommodate companion seating for a wheelchair user. The Wheelchair Resting Space should permit shoulder-toshoulder alignment adjacent to one side of the fixed seat.

Equivalent Facilities. Where tables, counters, or drink rails are provided,

movable tables are provided in lieu of fixed, at least one of the movable tables must also be accessible.

Where drink rails are provided, a 60 inch long portion of a drink rail shall have 36 inch wide and level space adjacent to it for a side-approach by

countertop facilities to those found in other habitable terraces. Wheelchair Accessible Entry. The accessible terrace will require a wheelchair accessible entry from the sidewalk. The wheelchair accessible entry may be achieved with a structure on the sidewalk within the sidewalk furnishing zone that provides transition between the sidewalk and parklet deck.

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Defining the Scope Q&A What, who, why, where, when and how?

The “Scope Compass� is a tool to understand how a project can be scoped and implemented in different stages of the process. No matter the type of project - whether simply facilitated or completely led by the city - the pilot can serve as a platform for citizen engagement and a more democratic approach to public space design.

SCOPE COMPASS Instigated/Managed Officially + The project can align with other official initiatives

+ The project aligns with other official initiatives

+ The project can adapt easily to feedback

+ The project can create sufficiant impact

- The project might not align with the needs of the users

- The project might not align with the needs of the users

- The project might not create sufficient impact

- The project might have difficulty adapting to feedback

and finish here

Short-Term /Temporary

Long-Term /Permanent

move to here a project might start here + The project has ownership amongst the users

+ The project has ownership amongst the users

+ The project can adapt easily to feedback

+ The project can create sufficiant impact

- The project might not align with other projects in the city

- The project might not align with other projects in the city

- The project might not create sufficient impact

- The project might have difficulty adapting to feedback

Instigated/Managed by the Users


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2. Setting Goals People-first Success Criteria Clear metrics are essential to set benchmarks and assess the success of Action-Oriented Planning. Short-term projects provide lessons that urban planners and decision-makers can apply long-term, using the “Measure-Test-Refine� method. Measuring performance against success criteria can help vet potential prototype concepts, guide iteration, and evaluate success. Each project must define its own criteria of success early in the process. Be aware that as the process moves forward, these could change.


aastreet for for people people astreet street for people

engaged engaged communities communities engaged communities

Shared Civic Spaces

shared shared civic civic space space shared civic space

Evaluation Questions

Evaluation Questions

Evaluation Questions

How successful was the prototype in creating more invitations for lingering and walking?

Were communities engaged in the prototyping process?

How successful was the prototype in inviting diverse audiences in terms of age, gender, neighborhood, income, and racial identification?

Did the prototype improve the perception of this place for a diversity of users?

sparking sparking creativity creativity sparking creativity


Engaged Communities

How did the prototype reflect the wishes of the neighborhoods it is in?

Did the prototype present opportunities for mixing between people of different backgrounds?

building building capacity capacity building capacity

opportunity opportunity and and access access opportunity and access

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Setting Goals Q&A What are the main 1-5 goals of the project and what are the criteria for reaching these goals?

First define: what is the focus and purpose of the project? Next, consider what the measure of success should be. If the project does not meet all the expectations, could it still be considered successful by providing learnings of what did not work? Each project should, prior to implementation, set out to define a list of goals - the Criteria of Success - which will guide the selection of evaluation metrics. Without these criteria, the findings might lack direction and it can be difficult to steer the continued process.

Opportunity and Access shared a street civic for space people

opportunity access sparkingand creativity

Building Capacity engaged communities

building capacity

Longevity shared civic space

shared and civicaccess space opportunity

Evaluation Questions

Evaluation Questions

Evaluation Questions

How successful was the prototype in bringing new resources and services to the street that expand cultural and economic opportunity and access?

How successful was the prototype in building social capital and skills in its participants and organizers?

Is this prototype set up to succeed during the time it is installed?

Did the prototype present opportunities for mixing between people of different backgrounds?

Did the prototype present opportunities for mixing between people of different backgrounds?

Are proper maintenance and management entities stewarding its success?


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3. Evaluation Eye-level Project Evaluation EVALUATE BASELINE



(Before) Measuring a baseline before implementation is important to understanding the actual impact and to gauge the level of success.

(During) The success criteria/indicators must be defined according to each project’s defined goals and criteria of success. These are examples.

(After) Be sure to evaluate success from different perspectives. The learnings can be used to adapt other/ future interventions.

Certain success criteria need a baseline to compare against. Be sure to set time aside to evaluate baseline conditions before you begin a project if this is the case. A baseline could mean a survey of the general public, core stakeholders, and/or designers or implementers.

Publicly Available Statistics - Reduction in traffic injuries

1. City Perspective Focus on learning: What worked and what did not work? What issues (positive and negative) arose from implementation? Which issues (positive and negative) stem from the planning process? Are the issues design or program related? What unexpected opportunities (partners, usage of space, spin-off activities) appeared before, during and after the process?

- More public transportation users Observational Analysis - Increase in pedestrian activity - Increase in people on bikes - More people lingering - Greater variety of activities Qualitative Analysis - Better quality of urban environment - More active frontages - New functions or more diverse functions Surveys and Interviews - New social encounters - Stronger sense of community - Increased feeling of safety - Increased sense of identity - Public capacity building Engagement and Social Media - Spontaneous programs happen - Increase in social media hits - Positive business and retail impact - Engaged local stakeholders


2. User Perspective Focus on experience: How does this impact the user’s everyday routine? What is in it for the user? Did the user come away thinking that the public sector has his/her best interest in mind? Where/How/When is it possible for the user to have a say in these action-oriented initiatives? 3. Maker Perspective Focus on creation: How were implementers’ unique knowledge of design taken into consideration? Were they supported as creative citymakers? Did the project build their social capital and skills?

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Evaluation Q&A What do we need to find out before, during and after the project - and how are we going to do it?


Social Media Analysis

Online Surveys

Intercept Surveys

Engagement records keep track of engagement + other public data collection

Analyzing metadata of social media posts from project area during and after the intervention

Online surveys of the general public, community stakeholders, and designers to gauge impact of the intervention

Intercept surveys conducted with users of the site before, during and/or after the initiative has been implemented

Observational Analysis

Prototype Evaluation

Quantitative data sets of pedestrian counts, age and gender registrations and observations of different types of staying activities

The prototype can be measured against its own success criteria. Or, if there are multiple prototypes, measured against common criteria.

Photo Documentation

In-Depth Interviews

Before, during and after photo Interviews with specific users and comparisons can be strong indicators stakeholders to gain a detailed insight of a project’s physical impact into the project’s performance


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Typologies 6 Variations of Actions Approaches to Action-Oriented Planning vary according to whom the project is initiated by, whether the physical scale of the project maps 1:1 with the strategic area in question or is a smaller site, the length of the cycle of action, and the level of resolution the project aims to achieve within a cycle of action. Using these typologies can help to understand the sphere of action, but in the “real world� projects often span multiple categories.

Regeneration Catalyst

Full-Scale Test

Demonstration Project

What? Creating new destinations on vacant sites. A physical intervention, typically before (but also during) the planned long-term regeneration or development of an area.

What? A full-scale, low-resolution mockup project that aims to test and build familiarity with a new design as close to 1:1 as possible, using quicker, less costly, reversible or less intensive physical means.

What? A fully detailed implementation of a design that illustrates a best practice conception of a project or concept.

Why? To create ownership of a vision or an idea, before the vision is fully formed.

Where? Usually limited in scale or size, in an area or along a stretch that can serve as an example for similar places.

Why? To establish a local identity of a long-term project early in the process. Where? In areas that are being redeveloped in the long-term, but need early activation to gather communities or build support. How? By creating cultural attractors on vacant sites for varying durations of time depending on the specific context and scale of area.

Where? Often contested or congested spaces that require buy-in from many stakeholders or from the general public to begin change.


Instigated/Managed Officially


Instigated/Managed by the Users

How? By building a 1:1, fully designed and permanent project with high-quality design and high-quality materials.

How? By creating a project that is as close to solving the suggested needs as possible with quick, flexible and reversible means.

Instigated/Managed Officially


Why? To build support and creative incentive for even larger scale installations of a similiar type.


Instigated/Managed Officially


Instigated/Managed by the Users



Instigated/Managed by the Users

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Process Pilot

Insurgent Project

Tactical Project

What? A test of new collaboration methodologies - from regulating to facilitating. A new kind of citizen engagement process that builds trust, engages new stakeholders and creates solidarity through building together.

What? An “unsanctioned” project that uses loopholes or spontaneously claimed space, usually unauthorized, to propose a novel urban solution.

What? A “frame” within which citizens generate content or change limited sites within the urban environment.

Why? To test out new ways of working together to create better proccesses and outcomes. Where? In situations that need rethinking of the established engagement and collaboration methods. How? By consciously and methodically testing, measuring and evaluating a project’s process

Why? To create civic ownership of a space or take initiative when official action is lacking. To create awareness of “non-sensical” legislations and conditions. Where? On contested, unclaimed or underused sites. How? Private citizens, ad-hoc groups and community organizations, using simple and cheap means to create maximum impact.

Instigated/Managed Officially


Where? In places with an existing strong sense of community or with a large body of residents or users that can be engaged. How? The city facilitates or processes permits and strategic partnerships; citizens take ownership of the actual projects.

Instigated/Managed Officially




Instigated/Managed by the Users

Why? To create community stewardship around a project within the context of a larger city strategy.

Instigated/Managed Officially




Less common

Instigated/Managed by the Users

Instigated/Managed by the Users


Catalogue 6 Case Studies

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Overview: 6 projects Matching Goals and Actions What was the goal?


PARK(ING) DAY Worldwide / 2005-present Insurgent Project + Tactical Project


TIMES SQUARE New York, USA / 2008-present Full-Scale Test + Demonstration Project


OPEN STREETS Worldwide / 1974-present Tactical Project + Full-Scale Test


VILLAGE ÉPHÉMÈRE Montreal, CA / 2013-present Regeneration Catalyst + Tactical Project


THE PORCH Philadelphia, USA / 2011-present Full-Scale test + Demonstration Project


PROTOTYPING FESTIVAL San Francisco, USA / 2015 Process Pilot + Tactical Project


Showing that car space is also public space that can be used for people activities instead Creating a flagship project for the NYC Plaza program to catalyze the re-imagination of public space Re-imagining the role of streets to connect people across neighborhoods and demographics Bringing attention to some of Montreal’s underused but highly potential public spaces Making the area in front of the 30th Street Station a lively place where people want to stay Generating bold ideas from the general public to incorporate into “Street Life Zones”

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“The importance of pedestrian public spaces cannot be measured,

but most other important things in life cannot be measured either: Friendship, beauty, love and loyalty are examples. Parks and other pedestrian places are essential to a city’s happiness” Enrique Penãlosa, Mayor, Bogotá, Colombia, 1998-2001

What was the action? To temporarily repurpose parking space To provide open source instructions for replication by anyone, anywhere To collect worldwide photos and stories of people participating in and contributing to the concept

What was the outcome?

Global movement grows to repurpose parking spaces as people spaces Communities use event as organizing tool Cities provide increasing support

To temporarily pedestrianize Times Square

Bold action and incentive to win over “nay-sayers”

To test alternative traffic conditions on Broadway

Building a shared understanding of the use and usability of civic space

To create a flagship project and a full-scale test of the NYC Plaza Program as inspiration for the wider iniative

To close car-corridors for the purpose of allowing pedestrians and bicyclists to take over the space To provide open source instructions for replication by anyone, anywhere

A pilot project became a successful permanent project

Global movement to reclaim the streets on a temporary basis, usually combined with events

To reduce pollution in car-depending metropolises

To make a temporary “village-environment” with design installations, basic seating structures and activities To give local designers and architects a public platform To activate an empty site in the city

To put out inexpensive furnishings and plants To curate food and events To observe, measure and learn from who stays, where, how long & why

To provide 50 small sites and budgets To curate the city’s best user-generated ideas To facilitate 250,000 visitors and observants over three days

Citizens were using a part of the city that they never normally visited A public temporary intervention has become permanent and adopted by the local community and private stakeholders

Space becomes popular and defines district identity Reinvestment into higher quality design and furnishings

Was there long-term impact? Cities form parklet programs to allow longer impact New streetscape typology is established for permanent installations

Times Square is now permanently a pedestrian plaza with granite paving and well-designed urban furnishings

Today, cities all over the world host “Open Streets” and in some cases the opening of the streets to the pedestrians has also created the basis for permanent pedestrianizations

One of the sites of a “Village Éphémère” intervention, a former snow-storage site, is now being continuously re-appropriated for events and art related activities

Provided a template for envisioning an enlivened University City District

Continued observation & measurement

Design is being formalized and expanded to surrounding parts of the District

Many people encounter the event who aren’t reached by traditional outreach

Better Market Plan to incorporate greater emphasis on programming

Most innovations involve sociability, public art and programming

Sites for rotating user generated content incorporated in street redesign

Several ideas rise to next round

New template for community engagement


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Overview: 6 projects A Spectrum of Actions SCALE Region

Open Streets, Worldwide (2015)

City 3

Open Streets, Bogotá (1974)



Prototyping Festival (2015)




Park(ing) Day (2005)




Village Éphémère (2013)



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“The idea that action should only be taken after all of the answers

and the resources have been found is a sure recipe for paralysis. The planning of a city is a process that allows for corrections; it is supremely arrogant to believe that planning can be done only after every variable has been controlled” Jaime Lerner, Mayor of Curitiba, Brazil

NYC Plaza Program (ongoing)



Better Market Street (2012-2018)

The Porch (2011)

Times Square (2008)

The Porch (XX-XX)

Village Éphémère (2014 + 2015)

Village Au Pied du Courant (2016)

Living Innovation Zone (2014)

Parklet Program (2010)






Action-Oriented Planning Tools

February 2016 // Gehl Studio

→ parkingday.org

1 Worldwide Park(ing) Day Fall 2005

Rebar’s first Park(ing) installation

September 2006

September 2007

September 2008

first Park(ing) Day

Park(ing) Day

Park(ing) Day

Summer 2006

manual published, date set

Key Project Components Flexible and simple idea

Park(ing) can be implemented by almost anyone and is a forgiving framework for participation. It can be a big production involving dozens of people and thousands of dollars, or a modest installation by a single individual for next to nothing.

Open source

The instructions for Park(ing) are freely available. Participants post their own how-to’s and hacks.

Trademarked, commercial-free

The founders trademarked the name and license it to participants free of charge, as long as they do not use it commercially. This keeps Park(ing) out of the hands of advertising.

Plentiful sites

Parking spaces are abundant in almost every city in the world.


Organizers frequently photograph their projects and share online, helping to spread the message.

Operates within common loophole

Activities typically allowed or tolerated in parking spaces.


Spring 2008

Summer 2008

Park(ing) Day Network launched

featured in Venice Biennale

PLANNING CONTEXT Repurposing parking spaces was largely outside the planning conversation in 2005 in San Francisco when Park(ing) Day was started. Its founders, Rebar, looked at the parking code and open space planning documents and determined that 1) the area around First and Mission Streets downtown was underserved by open space according to the City’s plans, and 2) using a parking space for something other than a motor vehicle was not prohibited.

DESCRIPTION OF PROJECT In the first instance, Park(ing) was a temporary installation of turf, a tree, a bench, bollards and signage asking passers-bys to feed the meter if they enjoyed the open space. It was organized by “Rebar” and installed for the two hours permitted by law in a parking space near First and Mission Streets in San Francisco, fall 2005. The project was photographed and posted in a blog. Several months later the group had been contacted by people around the world asking for the project to be replicated elsewhere. In response, Rebar created an open source how-to guide to allow others to create their own installations. The following year, they published a date (3rd Friday in Sep) for an annual global “Park(ing) Day” to focus participation for maximum effect. In a two-year partnership and sponsorship agreement with The Trust for Public Land, the event grew to a few hundred cities across the U.S. and Europe. Rebar created an online forum, the Park(ing) Day Network, to allow participants to share information and collect records of parks. Within six years the annual event had grown to thousands of installations and hundreds of cities on six continents. It saw repeated coverage in national and local media. Within the first year, Park(ing) Day was used by city government employees in various cities as a form of civic engagement and outreach.

Action-Oriented Planning Tools


February 2016 // Gehl Studio

$500 for the first Park(ing) participant installations typically $0-$1,000

a handful of founders 1000+ groups participating annually




Instigated/Managed Officially


Installations tend to be 1 or 2 parking spaces so the physical size is “extra small”


Instigated/Managed by the Users



Representatives from cities & organizations

Designers / Participants


September 2009

September 2010

September 2011

September 2012


Park(ing) Day

Park(ing) Day

Park(ing) Day

Park(ing) Day

Park(ing) Day

Summer 2008

Fall 2012

San Francisco’s parklet pilots launched

Parklet program formalized

MEASURES OF SUCCESS Park(ing) Day has enjoyed widespread recognition and acclaim in global design and urban sustainability circles. It was featured in the Venice Architecture Biennale in 2008 and has been cited numerous times in publications on cities, landscape architecture, urbanism and sustainability, as well as academic writing about community organizing and activism. Though it has been difficult to count the number of installations because they are self-reported, based on Rebar’s counts there continue to be 800 or more parks built each year around the world, with cumulative number participants probably in the tens of thousands. The event continues each year with no additional organizing; it is now entirely crowd-sourced.

OUTCOMES & IMPACT The most tangible outcome of Park(ing) Day in San Francisco was the creation of the City’s parklet program. City Planners and the Mayor’s Office had observed the event and looked for a way to make it more permanent. The 1985 Downtown Plan had identified something called “parklets” as small open spaces, and using Park(ing) as a template, the city tested a pilot program of several reversible installations of public open spaces in 2-3 parking spaces around the city (several were made by Rebar). Based on the success of this program, and informed by some of the physical and institutional challenges such as stewardship and maintenance illuminated during the piloting phase, the City further developed a parklet permit under its new Pavement to Parks program that was concurrently testing other reversible plazas and pilots around the city. San Francisco has become the national model for parklets with the most comprehensive documentation and guidelines Park(ing) Day is also credited with inspiring other activist projects, such as the Better Block Project.


Action-Oriented Planning Tools

February 2016 // Gehl Studio

→ nyc.gov/plazas

2 New York, US Times Square 2007

“NYC Plaza Program”

flagship project on Broadway

Official planning document published

The program was launched as an open application program for citizens

6 weeks of pilot projects on Times Square




NYC DOT pilot projects

“World Class Streets”

pilot project Times Square

in “forgotten” places

Gehl Architects document frames sense of urgency

Key Project Components PlaNYC A comprehensive plan that addresses long-term challenges from climate conditions to aging infrastructure. The Mayor’s Office of Long-Term Planning and Sustainability (OLTPS) develops and coordinates with all other City agencies to track progress.

One New York Mayor deBlasio’s updated long term plan for NYC that outlines sustainability and resiliency initiatives. It not only focuses on the city’s physical characteristics, but improving life for the citizens as well.

Metrics to support the projects The DOT framed the pilot projects along Broadway Ave as a ‘Greenlight for Midtown.’ They were specific in stating goals of improving traffic and pedestrian safety with these projects, and they meticulously studied the impact of the projects. It was important to them that the work improve the city for everyone - taxis and tourists alike.

Taking the time to reach out The NYC DOT took a lot of time to build support from the organizations that would be impacted by the change. They met with each organization individually, so when they announced the project to the media, they had a strong network of stakeholders that were prepared for change.





Artists re-interpret Broadway and Times Square following the success in 2008

PLANNING CONTEXT The NYC Plaza Program was launched in 2009, following a series of initiatives to create better public spaces in New York City. Before the Plaza Program, the city itself had undertaken upgrades of various forgotten spaces in the city, until they in 2008 created a flagship project for the process on Times Square. The first edition of the Times Square pilot projects lasted 6 weeks, but the success created a basis for an extension of the concept. In the second phase, the city encouraged artists to re-interpret the temporary design of the space. The NYC Plaza Program was formulated on the premise that all pilot project interventions should be citizen-designed and driven, including the continued maintenance of the sites. Following this concept, more than sixty public places in all of New York have been upgraded. The city is now once again seizing more control by allocating funding for helping out with the maintenance work - as such, the planning framework and responsibility keeps shifting between city and citizen, within the grander vision for creating a better public realm for all socio-economic groups.

DESCRIPTION OF PROJECT The NYC Plaza Program is an application program with the aim of integrating “traffic-islets” into the urban fabric, i.e. by bridging across infrastructure to extend plazas in front of active facades. The NYC Plaza Program relies on the citizens of New York to organize, formulate and apply to undertake re-designs of public plazas. The city provides limited capital for these projects, encouraging serious and comprehensive project proposals, made better by the competition between them. Proposals in areas with few parks and open spaces are prioritized. The citizens have to show how they will maintain the plazas themselves, although in the autumn 2015, city funding was finally allocated to help carry out this task.

Action-Oriented Planning Tools

February 2016 // Gehl Studio

GENEREAL INFORMATION (TIMES SQUARE PHASE 2008) $200.000 US for the very first project


$1,5 US mio. for the 5 plaza adaptions along Broadway

a handful of DOT employees several smaller groups of consultants + community groups




plaza program scaled up

‘Siloed’ community groups and stakeholders





61 citizen maintained plazas

future of NYC public realm

The NYC Plaza program has reached 61 re-designed plazas, all maintained by the citizens themselves

5-7 plazas are re-designed every year

Gehl Architects


Instigated/Managed by the Users



DOT - Department of Transportation

Other ‘expert’ consultants

Instigated/Managed Officially

The Times Square pilot project was a “Large-Scale” project due to its links to Broadway and to the rest of New York

Mayor’s Office

Gehl Studio and the Times Square Alliance launch the next phase for the NYC public realm


November 2015

Permanent Design on Times Square

NYC allocates maintenance budget

Snøhette designs a permanent granite plaza on Times Square, Broadway


The plazas created through the application program finally get city funding for maintenance

Times Square temporary design

The measures of success started out by being very focused on the economic benefits of replacing infrastructure with public spaces. This was especially true for Times Square, where the business impact was carefully monitored (with positive results). This focus is no longer the major driver of the changes - instead, discussions of safety dominate the arguments for and against. Do lively public spaces create safer cities than vacant streets? - that is the current measure of success. However, recent discussions have also pointed to the importance of urban justice and community development, meaning that cities should provide the physical framework for inclusive and democratic societies, inviting all socio-economic groups to make the most of the public realm.

OUTCOMES & IMPACT The beginning use of pilot projects in New York was carefully run by the NY DOT. They oversaw planning, support, implementation, and evaluation of the projects along Broadway Ave. The more recent Plaza Program initiated by the NY DOT is citizen driven with oversight by the city. Citizens are charged with identifying plaza locations, applying for funds, and a outlining maintenance program. In return, the DOT pays for and implements the plaza project. The NYC Plaza Program has activated communities all over New York to take ownership of their public realms. The benefits of transforming infrastructures into public spaces are many, but some of the most important ones relate to safety, business vitality and urban justice. The plazas create foot traffic that can boost and invigorate the street life, which improves all of the above mentioned themes.

Permanent design

Image Credits: Snøhetta


Action-Oriented Planning Tools

February 2016 // Gehl Studio

→ healthiestpracticeopenstreets.org


→ openstreetsproject.org

Worldwide Open Streets 1965



Seattle Bicycle Sundays First registered US Open Street

Ciclovía Bogotá Official Open Streets Flagship Project

11 Open Streets registered in North America

3-mile stretch of Lake Washington Boulevard

“Ciclovía” meaning “bike path”

3 on the West Coast / 8 on the East Coast

Key Project Components

PLANNING CONTEXT The first official Open Streets event was hosted in 1974 in Bogota, Columbia, under the name “Ciclovía”. However, occurances of the concept can be traced as far back as to the 1960s in Seattle, North America. The

An Iconic Route It is important that the selected route is iconic and strategically placed to connect local communities. If the main street already has certain activity offers (like dining or retail) it is easier to establish it as a destination. This route should be intersected by smaller streets that link into different social, economic and ethnic areas of the city.

Regular Frequency

event is always organized locally, but can be both led and funded by either the city/municipality and/or by the citizens or non-profit organizations. Between 1965 and 2005, only 11 initiatives of Open Streets were recorded throughout the US. However, the popularity of the concept has since grown more rapidly. From 2005 to 2012, 60 more Open Streets was added to the total number. Despite this rapid growth, many funding and organizational obstacles continue to prevent North America’s initiatives from becoming as robust and as frequent as those found in Central and South Aemrica.

If the event is planned with predictable regularity, it will make it easier for people to take part and plan their attendance. It will also reduce organizational challenges with the rest of the city traffic.

Today the planning process is aided by several online resource platforms

Activity Hubs


Along the route, activity hubs with complementary programming encourage participants to move throughout the program. These activities could be health-related (such as bike-rentals, yoga, nutritional education).

Free and Accessible Participation The Open Streets initiative should be inclusive of all ages, abilities and socio-economic circumstances. It should involve all self-propelled transport modes, like walkers, runners, cyclists, rollers, strollers, etc. Inspired by “Healthiest Practice Open Streets”

like “Healthiest Practice Open Streets” or “The Open Streets Project”.

Open Streets is a world-wide initiative that promotes healthy living, local businesses, sustainable transportation and civic pride. Open Streets creates a safe, car-free environment on a normally trafficked street for the duration of one day every year/month/week. During the event, the streets become like “paved parks”, encouraging people to engage in physical activities across dempographics and communities. Open Streets explicitly support healthy living through physical activity and the broadening of transportation choices in pre-dominantly car-dependant urban settings. Besides offering the opportunity for people to take over the road space, the event is usually accompanied by other offers of activity.


Action-Oriented Planning Tools

February 2016 // Gehl Studio

The City/Municipality


Cost varies greatly depending on the individual requirements for closing the street

Participation varies greatly depending on the lenght of the route and the size of the city



Private Initiaters (Communities)

Many variations exist

Non-profit Organizations

Instigated/Managed Officially


Open Streets is always a relatively “large-scale” or even “extra-large” initiative, because the route traverses several neighborhoods


Instigated/Managed by the Users








The Open Streets Project is launched

70+ Open Streets registered in North America

100+ Open Streets registered in North America

Collaboration between the “Alliance for Biking & Walking” & “The Street Plans Collaborative”

MEASURES OF SUCCESS The organization 8-80, who launched the “Healthiest Practice Open

New York Summer Streets

Streets” program, have recorded several health-related benefits to Open Streets. These include that participants have a higher prevalence of meeting physcial activity recommendations than the overall population, that on average, Open Streets’ participants have higher health-related quiality of life scores and that they have higher scores on social capital scales. Open Streets also reduce particulate matter pollution and street noise, contributing to a healthy environment in the city. 8-80’s research also shows positive effects for retailers located along the routes, due to the general slower pace of passers-bys. Today, more than 70 miles of streets are open to non-motorized activity every Sunday in Bogotá, Columbia, the de facto leader of this growing global movement. The weekly participation rates can exceed 1 million people.

Image Credits: The Open Streets Project

Open Streets in Pittsburgh

OUTCOMES & IMPACT The movement re-imagines the role of civic space in the city, particularly road space normally allocated to vehicular traffic. Open Streets also connects neighborhoods across communities and people across demographics, around shared experiences. The Open Streets movement has been especially strong in the past decade, showing people alternative ways of getting around the city than by car. In many places, Open Streets is now a recurring weekly event, giving people the opportunity to exercise and explore their city free of cost. The overall benefits of improved physical health and reduced air pollution have global impact.

Image Credits: Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership


Action-Oriented Planning Tools

February 2016 // Gehl Studio

→ aduq.ca / aupiedducourant.ca

4 Montreal, CA Village Éphémère June-August - 2014


Fall - 2015

2nd Village Éphémère (2 months)

Sainte-Marie Village process formalized

New Location: Sainte-Marie by St Lawrence River 40.000 visitors

concept adopted by private organisation (Pepinière & Co)

August 29 - 2013

1st Village Éphémère (1 day) at Bassin Peel, Lachine Canal 1.000 visitors

June-September - 2015

3rd Village au Pied du Courant (3 months)

Name change due to concept change - recurring event Change to private organizer: Pépinière & Co Same Location: Sainte-Marie by St Lawrence River 80.000 visitors

Key Project Components Non-Profit Design Association with Access to Funding (ADUQ)

Fall - 2015

ADUQ “moves on” New site ideas for 2016 Village Éphémère

PLANNING CONTEXT The design organization ADUQ (The Québec Association of Urban Design) was launched in 2012 as a non-profit organization based in Montreal. ADUQ’s mission is to promote urban design initiatives and creativity in Québec (state), Canada. They work both on their own projects, funded by membership fees, sponsors and grants, and to advertise and support

ADUQ (The Québec Association of Urban Design) is funded by its members, sponsors and via grants. The association focuses on small-scale projects that promote Québec’s design scene, avoiding the bureaucracy and limitations of a typical public design department.

other organizations and private initiatives. In 2013, the organization wanted

A Strong Local Arts and Design Scene

on a pre-defined “underused” site in the city. The location changed

to bring focus to Montreal’s underused spaces, with potential for better integration into the city. To achieve this, they came up with the concept “Village Éphémère” (The Ephemeral Village), conceived as a temporary pop-up urban environment, staged by local artist, designers and architects

L’ADUQ received 74 design proposals from artists, designers, urban designers and architects for the 2014 Village Éphémère. They chose 20 projects for implementation. Each design team was given $500CAD to cover their costs.

between the two first years, but was the same in 2014 and 2015, due to the

Supportive Local Municipalities


Village Éphémère received $10,000 from the local municipality (Ville-Marie), which was forwarded to the twenty teams of designers as project funding.

The 1st Village (Bassin Peel) consisted of a pop-up cafe, bar, terrace with

Engaged Local Communities

scaled up the size, length and activities on offer. Next year, ADUQ will launch

Since Village Éphémère moved to Sainte-Marie, the local community group “les AmiEs du Courant-Sainte-Marie”, and the design group “Pépinière & Co., have been strong local anchors and collaboration partners for ensuring the project’s success.

vast success. ADUQ is currently working to find a new 2016 site, since the 14/15 location (in Sainte-Marie) has been taken over by local stakeholders.

deck-chairs, food trucks and a variation of design installations. The 2nd and 3rd Village (both in Sainte-Marie) had the same main components but another “ephemeral” village in a new yet-to-be-determined site, while the Village in Sainte-Marie has been handed over to local stakeholders, who have added an “Artisan Market” to the concept (stall cost: $200CAD/season). In 2016, designers will have a “carte blanche” for their proposals, so funding opportunities and cost of each project go hand in hand (previously $500 CAD was donated to each project. The entrance to the site has all years been free.


Action-Oriented Planning Tools

February 2016 // Gehl Studio



40,000 visitors

Total cost of event ~$144,000 CAD

20 teams of designer/artists

Contribution to installations $500 CAD (x 20 donations)

14 organizers from ADUQ




(Ville-Marie Municipality)

Instigated/Managed Officially


The physical scale of the project was relatively ‘Medium Sized’, and strictly bounded inside a fenced site

Pepinère & Co

(Québec Government)

les AmiEs du Courant Sainte-Marie


Designers/Urban Designers/Architects/Artists

Instigated/Managed by the Users


Association du Design Urban du Québec (ADUQ)



February-March - 2016

Summer - 2015

start project organizational work

apply for funding, seek out collaborators, appoint department leaders, make management structure, make organizatorial chart, reach out to suppliers

Village Éphémère

June - 2016

Village opens

New site (not determined)

January - 2016

April-June - 2016

June-September - 2016

mayor of Village chosen

call for designs

4th Village “au Pied du Courant” (4 months)

new position as head of the organizing body

launch design charette, vision program, followup on budget, make operational plan for site


Sainte-Marie Village is no longer “ephemeral”

The Village 2015

The original project intent was to bring attention to Montreal’s potentially great, but highly underused, urban spaces. The idea of branding the event “The Ephemeral Village” was directly linked to the concept of creating an urban-like, lively and activity-rich environment on a temporary basis, to show people what a vacant dock or a snow-deposit site could actually contain and give back to the city. In the second year, the success became very tangible, when local stakeholders requested to take ownership of the site and to organize the event consecutively, believing that there was sufficient public interest to continue the success. However, this shift of ownership also changed the measures of success - the Village in Sainte-Marie is no longer ephemeral, but the presence of The Ephemeral Village has created the foundation for a new permanent design platform

Image Credits: Jean-Michael Seminaro

in this neighborhood. Between the second and third year, the attendance numbers also doubled. Next year (2016), the Village in Sainte-Marie will feature even more designs and events, breathing life into a formerly

Design Group “Collectif Ally”

forgotten area in the city, while ADUQ are looking for a new underused-site to re-host and continue the idea of The Ephemeral Village.

OUTCOMES & IMPACT The Ephemeral City has brought attention to the possibility of reappropriating an area in Montreal, which has been vacant and underused since the end of the Industrial Era. For the next couple of years, this area will be the platform for up-and-coming urban designers as well as for the reintegration of the Sainte-Marie community - one of Montreal’s most deprived neighborhoods. Next year, The Ephemeral Village might continue the success and impact another underused civic space in a new part of the city.

Image Credits: Eve Dubuc


Action-Oriented Planning Tools

February 2016 // Gehl Studio

5 Philadelphia, US The Porch 2011

November 2011

market testing

UCD opens the Porch

Summer 2011

UCD holds naming competition

November 2013

ArtPlace funding for additional seating / public artwork


September 2013

UCD hires LRSLA to design “base” site

first analysis of Porch use published

Key Project Components

PLANNING CONTEXT Adjacent to the nation’s second busiest train station, the site is at the heart of the University City’s eastern end, impacted by the addition of more than 4,000 federal employees across the street, intense new real estate development, the creation of Penn Park, and Drexel University’s growth-oriented master

Steward organization The University City District (similar to a Business Improvement District) provided the funding mechanism and staffing to plan, program and maintain the Porch.

Vision for public space

plan. Within a ¼ mile radius of The Porch, there are approximately 9 acres of surface parking, much of which is controlled by institutions with specific plans for development. These parcels presented a rare opportunity to create a vibrant and walkable new district linking Center City, 30th Street Station, and University City by piggybacking on a larger PennDOT project to rehabilitate six bridges adjacent to 30th Street Station. A public/private partnership between

Leadership at UCD has supported a strong network of public spaces in the District as the backbone of economic development.

area stakeholders — including the Philadelphia Council, Philadelphia City

Evaluation and iteration

an outer parking lane. PennDOT plans were designed to “lay the foundation”

UCD performs daily evaluations of how the Porch is being used by people. This people data feeds directly into the iterative design process The Porch continues to experiment with programming, new furniture, and space design.

Planning Commission, Streets Department, Amtrak, and Brandywine Realty Trust — engineered the creation of a 50’ wide sidewalk where there was once for the future, and UCD seized the opportunity to layer upon them.

DESCRIPTION OF PROJECT In November 2011, inspired by New Yorks plaza program and San Francisco’s

Jurisdictional leeway

parklets, with support from the William Penn Foundation, UCD opened The Porch

The project site is owned by PENNDOT, but essentially claimed by UCD, which operates the Porch without interference.

The Porch quickly became one of the most animated public places in Philadelphia,

Foundation funding The Porch has been supported by local and national philanthropy, including ArtPlace, Knight, and William Penn.

at 30th Street Station, a “light-quick” plaza using mostly furnishings and planters. with food, a beer garden, abundant seating, seasonal plantings, performances, and a variety of special events. UCD used observational methodologies from William H. Whyte and Gehl to track how seating arrangements were used each day, making iterative adjustments accordingly. In 2013 UCD engaged local architects to envision a more “capital intensive future” design for the “Porch 2.0”, as well as Gehl to improve upon seating options. The Porch continues to be a work in progress.


Action-Oriented Planning Tools

February 2016 // Gehl Studio

Approx. $2M as of 2015

A small number of people participates in the design, management and maintenance of the Porch





PennDOT Amtrak Planning Dept Brandywine Drexel

University City District (UCD)

Instigated/Managed Officially


The Porch is a “medium-sized” site


Long-term Various designers

Instigated/Managed by the Users




Groundswell designs “Porch 2.0”

May 2015

Fall 2015

Porch 2.0 launched

“Porch Swings” installed


Summer 2015

Studio Bryan Hanes engaged for long term redesign

Gehl develops PSPL framework

MEASURES OF SUCCESS In September 2013, UCD published “Realizing the Potential of the Porch:

Early iteration of the Porch in 2012

A Case Study in Data-Driven Placemaking”, which summarized the first year of the Porch’s use. A nuanced portrait of human activity emerged, influenced by travel patterns in and out of the Amtrak station, the season, and the food and program offerings. These formed the basis of a design strategy for future iterations that are currenty underway. The report noted that in its first season the Porch had logged 19 farmer’s markets, 2 art openings, 400 concertgoers, 1300 beer garden patrons, 20 food trucks, and 994 sunbathers.

OUTCOMES & IMPACT Building on the successful iterative process of the Porch, UCD hired Gehl to develop a Public Space Public Life analysis and vision for the surrounding district. Studio Bryan Hanes is also designing a further buildout of the Porch using a more “traditional” landscape architecture palette that incorporates the learning from the wealth of analysis conducted by UCD over the last five years.

Recent iteration of the Porch with Swings


Progress with Amtrak negotiating changes to the drop-off circulation adjacent to the station, which still cuts off pedestrian flows from the Porch, as well as poor retail programming inside the station, has been more limited but conversations are ongoing. The Porch has served as a low-key exemplar of iterative placemaking nationally. Moreso, it has created momentum for itself: each new season of the Porch seems to get better and argues for further investment in University City’s public realm — an increasingly urgent need as large-scale developments take root on virtually every remaining parcel nearby.


Action-Oriented Planning Tools

January 2016 // Gehl Studio

→ marketstreetprototyping.org


San Francisco, US Market St Prototyping Festival PROJECT TIMELINE 2011

Better Market Street (BMS) launches

May 2014

October 2014

MSPF call for submissions

selections announced

Fall 2013

February 2014

August 2014

October 2014

BMS visioning complete Street Life Zones & LIZ codified

First Living Innovation Zone opened

Community Idea Lab

social media launch

Key Project Components Strong collaboration between City agency and civic nonprofit organization Yerba Buena Center for the Arts and the San Francisco Planning Department staff co-led the Festival, with the leadership balanced between the organizations.

Arts funding + city planning objectives YBCA, an arts organization, acted as the fiscal sponsor and channeled funding from arts and civic philanthropy.

On brand Prototyping, making and innovating are part of the Bay Area’s brand. The Festival had key political support from the Mayor’s Office and department heads.

Agency staff ready to experiment


Several years of exposure to pilot projects, reviewing parklet designs, and operating in increasingly “experiment mode” prepared Public Works and SFMTA staff to support unconventional installations in public.

Market Street Prototyping Festival took place between April 9-11, 2015, inviting designers, artists and makers to connect with the diverse neighborhoods along Market Street to develop and test ideas that enliven the sidewalks. The Festival prototyped Better Market’s concept of Street Life Zones, multi-use areas located within the existing sidewalk that invite diverse public life, “lingering” activities and a stronger district identity. After an open public call for submissions, fifty projects were curated by a jury of local design leaders. Project teams were provided $5,000 each to realize their projects during the three days of the festival.

Tapping into local talent The Bay Area has a large number of professional and amateur “makers”—designers, tinkerers, artists—who are passionate about public space.


PLANNING CONTEXT Better Market Street (BMS) is a comprehensive program to reconstruct San Francisco’s chief cultural, civic and commercial corridor and the region’s most important transit street from Octavia Boulevard to The Embarcadero, a distance of 2.3 miles. The street is scheduled for physical reconstruction beginning 2019—a twice-per-century chance to rethink how space is allocated and how the street is designed. Market Street contains almost all transit lines serving the city, including Bart (regional rail) and Muni Metro (subway), both underground, as well as city buses, taxis, and the city’s busiest bicycle route. Multiple city public agencies are involved in the process, including Public Works, City Planning and SFMTA. After an extensive public visioning and preliminary planning process, several conceptual design options began environmental review through California’s EIR process. A concept that emerged during the visioning process was “Street Life Zones” or places within the wide thoroughfare where staying activities could flourish through new designs and programs. From this seed grew “Living Innovation Zones”—a curated, long-term test of designs by local stewards—and the Market Street Prototyping Festival, an open event where anyone could propose an idea for Market Street.

Action-Oriented Planning Tools


January 2016 // Gehl Studio

$250,000 materials $1,000,000 in-kind time

250,000 viewers 500+ designer/makers 25 organizers




Yerba Buena Center for the Arts

Department of City Planning Public Works Transportation Mayor’s Office

Instigated/Managed Officially


The physical scale of the project, as well as its reach, were “large”.

District Captains Long-term


Instigated/Managed by the Users


Community Cohort



Nov 2014/Jan 2015

community outreach tours

April 9-11, 2015

June 2016

June 2018


BMS final design begins

final design complete

January 2015

Fall 2015

June 2017


design charrette

BMS conceptual design complete

EIR clearance

construction begins on Market St

MEASURES OF SUCCESS Nothing like the Prototyping Festival had been tried in San Francisco, so when no major issues resulted from fifty user-generated projects installed in the city’s busiest sidewalk for three days (no small feat for the producers), the project cleared a major hurdle. The more ambitious goals for the project were codified by Gehl in the report “Makers On Market: Lessons from San Francisco’s Market Street Prototyping Festival”. These included improving Market as a “street for people” by inviting for lingering, adding to the diversity of street users, and improving perceptions of the street. As a process, the Festival was evaluated on its ability to engage communities both in the production of the event and in experiencing the ideas proposed. In most all of these measures, the Festival was successful. Pedestrian movement increased by 30% during the Festival and lingering activities increased by 55 to 175%. The event was able to reach a much wider audience than BMS’s outreach process had by virtue of its public presence on the street (73% of participants ran into by chance). Finally, the Festival indeed generated many useful new ideas for Market Street.

OUTCOMES & IMPACT As of this writing, Festival producers and city planners are still working to extract the insights to apply to the long-term capital improvement project of Better Market Street, as well as general lessons for the City’s public outreach process. The Festival’s strongest immediate impact may be on cities’ ideas about outreach. Thanks to heavy observation by visitors from other cities throughout the Festival, enthusaism for replication has been widespread. The Festival made clear that intensive programming and staffing bouyed the succesful prototypes—an insight that could influence development of BMS’s eventual Street Life Zones.


Further Inspiration & Vocabulary

Action-Oriented Planning Tools

February 2016 // Gehl Studio

Inspiration Other Projects

Image Credits: The Movement Cafe




San Francisco, CA

Greenwich, London, GB

Christchurch, NZ

Designed by: Gehl Studio San Francisco

Designed by: Artist Morag Myerschough

Designed by: Gap Filler + Local Designers

Managed by: The San Francisco Giants

Managed by: Greenwich Cooperative Development Agency

Managed by: Gap Filler + Local Volunteers

Project Type: Full-Scale Test

A parking lot slated to become a new neighborhood was transformed into a prototype of a neighborhood over the course of 2+ years, complete with food, drink, coffee, retail, public space, and programming. The project showed San Franciscans what the future development might look and feel like on a 1:1 scale. The Yard was strategically located in the city, just off the typical Downtown maps, but in very close relation to the main stadium (the AT&T) to the north of the site, and with one of the city’s busiest development areas to the south. The project is managed by the Giants. → theyardsf.com


Image Credits: Gap Filler

Project Type: Regeneration Catalyst

Project Type: Process Pilot + Regeneration Catalyst

A pop-up temporary bike café, built in 16 days, on a future development site to coincide with the start of the London Olympics. The design for the café was carried out by artist Morag Myerschought, while the actual operation of the project was handled by Greenwich Cooperative Development Agency. The café serves coffee and organic food. It also offers bike storage for commuters, right next to the Greenwich DLR station. The vision for The Movement Café was to transform the Greenwich DLR station area into an exciting and appealing gateway to the borough.

Gap Filler is a creative urban regeneration initiative that facilitates a wide range of temporary projects, events, installations and amenities in the city. These temporary activities were originally intended to bring life back to the city center of Christchurch in the wake of two major natural disaster (earthquake 2010 + 2011). The first project transformed an empty site into a space which hosted a temporary garden caré, petanque, live music, poetry readings, outdoor cinemar and more. Today Gap Filler work with many partners, public and private, to experiment with and activate underused sites in the city.

→ themovementgreenwich.com

→ gapfiller.org.nz

Action-Oriented Planning Tools

February 2016 // Gehl Studio

Image Credits: 500 Plates

Image Credits: Better Block




Akron, Ohio

Various Sites

Various Cities in Europe

Designed by: Artist Hunter Franks

Designed by: Jason Roberts (originally)

Designed by: Architecture and Design Students

Managed by: “500 Plates” volunteers

Managed by: Citizens/Communities

Managed by: Architecture and Design Students

Project Type: Process Pilot + Tactical Project

Project Type: Insurgent Project (originally) + Tactical Project (later)

Project Type: Insurgent Project

A community dinner for 500 citizens of Akron, Ohio, was hosted on a to-bedecommissioned highway with the aim of discussing the potential future uses of this freed-up urban space. Prior to the meal, local favorite recipes from each of Akron’s 22 neighborhoods had been printed on custom stoneware plates. The guests took these plates home as “an extenstion of the meal”. This initiative was seen as a unique and creative way to connect locals across the city. Attendees were guided by volunteer table hosts to discuss their personal stories as well as the challenges and opportunities of the future of their city. → 500plates.com

Better Block started out as a citizen project, instigated by Jason Roberts, purposely breaking “stupid” laws about what you could and could not do on the street. Today, the Better Block Foundation is a non-profit organization that educates, equips, and empowers communities and their leaders to reshape and reactivate build environments to promote growth of healthy and vibrant neighborhoods. For a short duration of time, in a small area, a portion of a city is transformed using low-cost, easy-to-install/ easy-to-remove materials to show a low-res version of its future potential.

MEDS “Meeting of Design Students” was founded in 2010 by students from different countries and different departments of design. It was created with the aim to join all design departments together to work towards implementing projects in a new European city every year. The theme of the workshop varies each year, but the overall idea is to contribue through a creative medium to the local community in an environmentally friendly manner, through temporary and sometimes possibly permanent interventions. MEDS gathers around 250 students from more than 30 nationalities for two weeks in the Summer.

→ betterblock.org

→ meds-workshop.blogspot.com


Action-Oriented Planning Tools

February 2016 // Gehl Studio

Inspiration Transitional Streets SAINTE-CATHERINE STREET



Montreal, CA

Vancouver, CA

London, GB

Project Type: Seasonal Street Closures

Project Type: Seasonal Street Closures

Project Type: Summer Streets

Time: May 4th - September 10th

Time: Canada Day - Labor Day

Time: Four consecutive Sundays

Lenght: 0.75 miles

Area: One block

Length: 1.0 miles

Sainte-Catherine Street is Montreal’s main commercial artery, running through several distinct neighborhoods. Every Summer, the commercial and entertainment heart of Downtown is pedestrianized, to make room for pedestrians to shop freely and to provide space for the many Summer festivals. During the Summer, the cafés also extend their seating areas onto the pavement.

Robson Street is located at the center of the city, in the civic and commercial area. Each Summer from Canada Day to Labor Day, a block is closed to make way for “VIVA Robson” - a 24h installation that offers the passers-bys an opportunity to lounge, rest or socially in the middle of a normally busy street. The design is determined through a competition held by the city.

Regent Street is normally a highly trafficked shopping corridor that is especially heavy on bus transit. The event “Summer Streets” transforms Regent Street into a greener environment full of entertainment, special activities and exclusive retail offers for four Sundays in July. Activities are targeted at all user groups and attract both locals and visitors.

→ quartierdesspectacles.com

→ vivadesigncomp.ca

→ regentstreetonline.com

In Winter an important traffic artery

2013 Design: “Cordouroy Road”

Normally a hectic bus and traffic route

Image Credits: VIVA

In Summer a vibrant pedestrian environment

2015 Design: “Porch Parade”

Summer Streets attracts new users of the space

Image Credits: VIVA


Image Credits: Summer Streets

Action-Oriented Planning Tools

February 2016 // Gehl Studio




Chattanooga, Tennessee, US

Mexico City, MX

Boston, Massachusetts, US

Project Type: Event-based closures

Project Type: Part-Day Closures

Project Type: Partial Closures

Time: Every Friday from 5pm, May-August

Time: Sundays until 2pm

Time: Varies throughout the day

Area: Miller Plaza + portion of Market Street

Lenght: 35 miles of closed roads (total)

Area: 34 blocks (all BID)

For the 28th year in 2016, Downtown Chattanooga closes off part of Market Street to make way for guests frequenting the music event “Nigthfall”. The street closures begin at 5pm to prepare for the concert that starts at 8pm. More than just a music concert, Nightfall brings together a diverse community around great live music, food and a one-of-a-kind atmosphere.

Paseo de la Reforma (La Reforma) is a prominent main traffic cross-city boulevard with several lanes in each direction. The street is closed every Sunday until 2pm to make way for bycyclists. While the street is closed, it is heavily used by bicyclists (up to 80,000), but local community and sports groups also set up tents for activities.

Downtown Crossing is part of Downtown Boston Business Improvement District (BID), a private, non-profit corporation created and maintained by private property owners. The area is a central commercial district with offices, retail, hotels and dining functions. The level of closure varies throughout the area. The paving indicates to the speed of road and who is given priority.

→ sedema.df.gob.mx

→ nightfallchattanooga.com

→ downtownboston.org

Market Street is pedestrianized at nighttime

Normally a noisy traffic corridor

Image Credits: NightFall

Free summer concerts bring people together

Image Credits: NightFall

Some streets allow cars to enter the district...

Image Credits: Sedema

On Sundays a busy bicycling route

... while other streets are 100% pedestrian

Image Credits: Sedema


Action-Oriented Planning Tools

February 2016 // Gehl Studio

AOP Vocabulary WORDS RELATING TO PROJECTS + PROCESSES + PLANNING IN THE URBAN ENVIRONMENT Action-Oriented Planning is an iterative, action-focused approach to planning the built environment. It is a process that involves testing and trying out ideas at a 1:1 scale in the field. Evaluating each iteration through measuring and analysis creates a feedback loop that informs and improves the subsequent steps. Action-Oriented Planning is distinguished from Tactical Urbanism, by an increased emphasis on measurement and evaluation as the guiding star of strategy. A Pilot Project is a good tool for Action-Oriented Planning. Activations are any attempts at catalyzing activities in a space. Activations can be Programming of the space, but they can also be implementing Hardware or changing the Software. Activations are often Pilot Projects, but they can also be permanent and heavily top-down planned projects. Baseline Data is information about the public space and/or the public life gathered before any projects are implemented. The baseline data is typically compared to information collected during and after the project implementation to establish impact and/or success. Case Study is a body of research into the development and status of a particular situation, system, project or place. Typically used to illustrate best-practice examples as inspiration for others. A single “example” that illustrates particular qualities of a larger subject. Also, a way to explain/study a subject. Variations of term: Examples, Best-Practice, Inspiration Census Data is referenced to understand the local neighborhood demographics. Census data allows for comparisons between the statistical makeup of a neighborhood and the on-street observervations. Hardware refers to all elements/objects that are physical. Hardware can relate to streetscape, surfaces, fixtures, furniture, signage, foliage etc. A citizen might say: “I don’t like the benches on that street”, referring to the hardware in the city. Pilot Project is a temporary project that is used to test the viability of a project idea. It can be both physical and nonphysical (testing processes or concepts), but is always planned for a limited duration of time as a test or trial. Pilot projects are a means to achieve a goal and include evaluation to test the project’s ability to achieve the goal. Variations of term: Test Pilot, Pilot Experiment, Pilot Program, Feasibility Study, Pilot Study, Pilot, Prototyping, Prototype, Intervention, Action Programming is the planning of intentional activities that happen in the public space. Programming means the act of planning specific activities, such as markets, festivals, seasonal events, etc. A citizen might say: “I don’t like that nothing happens on that street”, referring to the programming in the city. Programming is also modifying the space’s Software.


Action-Oriented Planning Tools

February 2016 // Gehl Studio

Prototyping is a temporary (physical) installation that is used to test the viability of a (physical) project idea. A prototype is typically more specific and design-based than a Pilot Project, although the terms are loosely associated. Technically, a prototype can be a pilot project, but a pilot project is not necessarily a prototype. PSPL – Public Space Public Life Study is a methodology invented by Jan Gehl and further developed by Gehl Architects to study a city’s public spaces, the public life that takes place in them, and the relationship between the two. The Public Space Study generally focuses on observations of the built environment (Hardware), such as the quality of the facades, pavement, natural light conditions, distribution of road space, square meters of park, etc. The Public Life Study focuses on people activities and behaviour (Software), such as the number of pedestrians on the streets, the number of people spending time outdoors, the types of activities they engage in, the representation of different demographic groups, etc. Both studies have qualitative and quantitative components, depending on the scale and scope of the study. Variations of term: PSPL Survey, PSPL Analysis Software refers to all the non-physical elements and behind-the-scenes processes that are present in or affect an urban environment. Software can relate to accessibility, atmosphere, inclusiveness, diversity, invitations, senses etc. A citizen might say: “I don’t feel safe on that street”, referring to the software in the city. The software is also dialogue, engagement, law & regulations, maintenance, event programs, networks, analysis, planning, etc. Stickiness is the ratio between the amount of people spending time in a certain location versus the amount of people moving through (pedestrians) the same location. If a space’s stickiness is high, it means that the space is more successful as a destination for stationary activities. If a space’s stickiness is low, it means that it functions primarily as a thoroughfare - a link between other destinations - than a destination in and of itself. Action-Oriented Planning often aims to increase a place’s stickiness. Tactical Urbanism is a deliberate approach to city-making that features the following five characteristics: A deliberate, phased approach to instigating change; An offering of local ideas for local planning challenges; Shortterm commitment and realistic expectations; Low-risks, with possibly a high reward; and the development of social capital between citizens, and the building of organizational capacity between public/private institutions, non-profit/ NGOs, and their constituents. From: “Tactical Urbanism 2” by “Street Plans”


Profile for Gehl - Making Cities for People

Action oriented planning february 05 2016  

A Guide for Practitioners This report defines practices of Action-Oriented Planning. It is intended to be a how-to for urban change managers...

Action oriented planning february 05 2016  

A Guide for Practitioners This report defines practices of Action-Oriented Planning. It is intended to be a how-to for urban change managers...