DIY Urban Design, from Guerrilla Gardening to Yarn Bombing
All images by Gordon Douglas unless otherwise noted.
Citizens have always made their marks on cities—graffiti has been an urban presence for millennia—but land use and city planning have long been the province of professionals and bureaucrats. As a result, many urban spaces today lack human
DIY urban design comes in all shapes and sizes, and each project has its own genesis. Portland's City Repair Project has been doing DIY urban design for longer than most. In 1996, a group of residents in the city's Sellwood neighborhood constr
Los Angeles has recently become a hotbed of DIY urban design culture, with a variety of actions, from bike lanes and sharrows to inspirational faux city parks and transit projects, attributed to an amorphous group called the Dept. of Do-it-Yourself. A
The Los Angeles EcoVillage is a beautiful example of DIY urbanism. Over the course of a year, Joe Linton and others at this cooperative "intentional community" have reclaimed their intersection with street art (inspired by and with help from
Another thing that any person walking in Los Angeles will notice—at least if they're accustomed to more pedestrian-friendly environments—is the striking lack of places to sit. A couple of local designers took that problem as inspiratio
Their SignChair, meanwhile, can be affixed to any standard sign post with holes in it, and can be folded up. "We were just kind of looking into ways that we could make the street more comfortable," explains one of its creators, who didn'
In many parts of Los Angeles, the lack of street furniture is the result of a lack of funding. Seating and shelter at bus stops, for instance, are largely provided by the advertising companies that use these structures as displays. So in places where
In hyper-commercialized urban landscapes like New York City, DIY urban design efforts have also tried to edit advertising out of the environment. Jordan Seiler's "Public Ad
Pieces like the one installed in this Manhattan phone booth play with the built-in back lighting that comes with many of these ad spaces. Seiler's Public Ad Campaign has also played an integral role in fighting back against the illegal "wild
A somewhat similar, if more playful, sentiment is echoed in so-called "pervasive games," such as Gentrification: The Game from Toronto collective Atmosphere Industries (seen here being played in Park Slope, Brooklyn). Teams act as either dev
The preservation of local character and history is the goal of some guerrilla signage. The Pennsylvania Howling Mob Society designed and installed a series of historical markers commemorating the great railroad strike of 1877 throughout Pittsburgh.
Meanwhile, in London, these posters commemorate the site of a medieval graveyard in Southwark and plea for its recognition by developers.
Some DIY urban design contributions are simply about adding a little color to an otherwise drab landscape. Last fall, local Los Angeles artists organized the city's first full-scale "yarn bombing" event, covering various public features
The nearby Highland Park Book Booth got a needlework makeover that day. The Book Booth is another instance of DIY urban design, created by two local designers and gallery o
"Yarn bombing" isn't just a Los Angeles phenomenon, as this yarn bike rack cozy in Red Hook, Brooklyn, demonstrates.
Meanwhile, up in Berkeley, this street sign cozy doubles as a low-tech community "msg center," where citizens can leave public announcements or notes for others who happen to be passing through the neighborhood.
One of the most common DIY beautification strategies is known as "guerrilla gardening." A gardener named Scott Bunnell has been working with others creating gorgeous, drought-tolerant spaces—like this traffic median in the Wrigley neig
The luscious landscaping of this London traffic island is the work of guerrilla gardener Richard Reynolds and his comrades.
Guerrilla gardening comes in all shapes and sizes. This small-scale project on a freeway off-ramp in Hollywood, California, is the work of a gardener known as Mr. Stamen and others.
These projects are only the beginning. There are examples of DIY urban design to be found in almost any city, and the idea seems to be spreading. What kind of impact DIY urban design will have in the face of the commercial and political forces that sh
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