Pavement to Parks

Class: Pavement to Parks a public laboratory for urban tactics
Professor: Mona El Khafif, John Bela
Dates: Spring 2010

In contrast to technocratic urbanism and top down strategies, there exists a whole set of people, processes and places characterized as user-generated urbanism. Born from the strategies of the Situationists this form of temporary urbanism is a space for tactics, those devising temporal and interim uses; and seeking voids, niches, and loopholes in the socio-spatial fabric. These processes are made evident in circular, hybridized, and overlapping patterns of resource consumption and tend to foster a diverse, resilient social ecology. Cities as well as designers and artists are currently investing into the understanding of and invention of temporary tactics that can be understood as urban acupunctures. Temporary hardwares such as installations and urban furniture are supporting a new understanding of public spaces and have the potential to generate an unknown set of urban software. Orgware strategies might active local networks and neighborhood participation while place-branding strategies can communicate activities and the integration of urban narratives. These urban layers can produce a form of urban life, the result of material and immaterial components such as activities, temporal events, and other movements that support the qualitative effects of cities.

Recently the San Francisco Planning Department has begun to adopt tactics to create a new set of public spaces under the „Pavement to Parks Program“. Utilizing portions of the public right of way (which consists of 25% of the city land area) each P2P project is intended to be a public laboratory where the City can work with the community to test the potential of the selected location to be permanently reclaimed as public open space. Materials and design interventions are meant to be temporary to offer a flexible armature for public occupation .

This seminar will introduce theories from the Situationists in architecture and urbanism, as well as traditional and contemporary techniques to analyze, diagram, and design (temporary) urban spaces. Audio-visual documentation techniques will help to capture the permanent production of urban spaces and to understand the construction of social effects.

We will apply the urban analytical techniques studied to the recently constructed P2P projects in order to understand their spatial potentials and to employ these in the generation of urban design strategies. A series of guest lectures, the analysis of global precedents, readings and urban scans of our target areas will support the understanding of temporary design strategies. The semester will culminate in the design for a temporary installation on a new San Francisco P2P site that – working in partnership with City officials, REBAR, and URBANlab – students will be able to realize in the summer of 2010.

Mappings by Jessica Wolkoff, Pouya Khakpour, Michael Wu, Laurice Bedrossian 2010