On April 1st, two students of architecture and urban design at the University of Laval launched their project of tactical urbanism #chaisesnomades on the school’s campus. And it was no April Fool’s joke!
“Tactical urbanism is a movement popularized in the United States” explained Alexandre Boulianne and Jean-François Laroche, the individuals behind the project. “It’s a new way to develop public spaces through removing the majority of constraints which are too often imposed by municipal administrations. It involves interventions carried out by citizens. Because these actions have local roots, they allow for certain needs, which are sometimes little-known by public authorities, to become visible. One of its advantages is that tactical urbanism projects are quickly created, allowing for immediate feedback.”
The project consists of installing sixty chairs, salvaged and repainted, in an outdoor public space located between the Jean-Charles-Bonenfant and Charles-De Koninck buildings. The objective is to validate certain hypotheses in preparation for the redevelopment of this busy area located just across from the campus library.
We want to see how people are going to use a piece of furniture that is flexible, how they are going to position the chairs in the most enjoyable spots to sit down,” add the two students. “In Quebec City, and maybe in the province of Quebec, this type of furniture does not exist in public areas. They are rather reluctant, no doubt due to a fear of theft. However, several parks in the United States and in Europe have turned towards the idea.”
Jean-François Laroche, who became interested in the way public spaces are experienced in winter during a study trip to Sweden, continues by citing the Medborgarplatsen square in Stockholm: “It is an open public space, without delimitations, that nevertheless contains movable furniture.” After an afternoon of observation, the project’s inventors were surprised by the way in which people reacted.
“It’s as if people passing by considered the chairs – which, yes, are painted an unusual and striking springtime yellow – to be an artistic installation. They touch them, turn them around, put them together, move them, but they hardly sit in them!” The students suggest that an adaptation period may be necessary before the chairs enjoy more regular use.
A number of chair configurations and other activities, such as serving coffee, were tested during the course of the two week project. The project ran until April 11th.
What kinds of areas seem best suited to benefit from citizen involvement through tactical urbanism?
Original article, originally published in French, here.
Credits: Images and data linked to sources.