Tactical urbanism in Barcelona

A way to quickly change the way a street is used, making it possible to adapt the city to new forms of mobility, and a new way of conceptualising urban life.

carrer amb peces d'urbanimes tactic
carrer amb peces d'urbanimes tactic

Tactical urbanism in Barcelona

For some years now, Barcelona has been committed to tactical urbanism when implementing initiatives that require functional changes to be made, quickly and economically, to the way urban space is used. This is tactical urbanism, a planning tool used in many other cities around the world to rapidly change the way a street is used. Moreover, these are changes that can easily be reversed if necessary.

Streets with coloured sections, street furniture and planters that can be moved if necessary, painted pavement games, etc. These are just some of the recent examples that can be seen on the streets of Barcelona. They are examples of tactical urbanism, an approach that makes it possible to quickly change the way a street is used.

By painting one of the traffic lanes and adding street furniture, more space can be freed up for pedestrians, for taking a stroll, for creating new squares and new leisure spaces, or for protecting the area around a school.

Urbanisme tàctic a Rocafort

Why are we committed to tactical urbanism?

In an ideal world, urban street reform is always best achieved through structural work, that is, work that enables a permanent transformation of the space. However, sometimes it is necessary to make changes quickly, or perhaps not all the funding that would be required to carry out such a transformation is available.

It is in these cases that Barcelona City Council has decided to opt for tactical urbanism. These are swift, inexpensive initiatives that make it possible to easily modify the way a street is used in response to need.

However, it is not always urgent need that determines use. Tactical urbanism also has greater visibility and can easily highlight potential alternative uses for public space. It can even be used to innovate and test new types of development, features of the urban landscape, or street functionality to determine whether or not they meet public needs.

Urbanisme tàctic a Protegim les escoles

Temporary and reversible

It should be taken into account that these are usually initiatives of a temporary nature. Often, the aim is that once the viability of the changes has been established, or the necessary budget allocations made, they become permanent. Furthermore, in the event that these changes of use do not meet the stated objectives, or the project needs to be altered in some way, the work is easily reversible, and easily modified.

What tactical urbanism is

  • Change of use
    Tactical urbanism facilitates a quick change in the function or use of a public space.
  • Fast and economical
    This approach is adopted when there is a need for action to be taken quickly, or insufficient funding is available.
  • Temporary
    Tactical interventions are generally temporary in nature, but with a view to later making them permanent.

Where have we applied the principles of tactical urbanism?

The concept of tactical urbanism, put to use by many big cities around the world, makes it possible to address a range of different needs. In Barcelona for example, it has been used in the Superilles (Superblocks) programme, which has led to traffic calming, new pedestrianised zones, the protection of areas around schools, and more space to expand bar, café and restaurant terraces.

Applications of tactical urbanism