Downtowns may not be perfect, but they’re the perfect canvas for a little – or a lot – of creativity through guerilla placemaking: everything from street art to gardening to benching.
Generally speaking, placemaking is not a new concept. It has been around since the 1960s, when visionaries like Jane Jacobs and William “Holly”Whyte offered ideas about designing cities around people instead of cars and shopping centers. Guerrilla placemaking makes people talk and question what’s going on. It’s under-the-radar pops of color, surprises and even activities that make people feel welcome and comfortable and create a sense of place.
A couple of years ago, public pianos were placed around Downtown as a part of the City Keys Project. One still sits in front of Chamblin’s Uptown bookstore and café today and the sounds of impromptu concerts often waft down Laura Street. Building upon this vibe, owner Ron Chamblin used the Laura Street Façade Grant Program to add chairs, tables and umbrellas to create a free-floating place for folks to read, chat and sip coffee. This spring a whimsical mural, also part of the grant program, will be added to the storefront to further define this sense of place.
Not all projects have to be long-term or permanent; going guerrilla is about starting small. It’s something we can all take part in to better our community, to leave our mark, and create interesting, engaging, even surprising experiences. And, as with the streetscape at Chamblin’s, small placemaking surprises can often be the start of something big.
Guerrilla placemaking is about bringing a community together in unconventional ways. It is tactable urbanism – ever changing, sociable and inspiring. Here’s a look at what other cities have done:
Share links from your favorite guerrilla placemaking projects below.