This paper reports initial findings of a critical, comparative study of recent practices of ‘temporary’ and ‘tactical’ (T/T) urbanism in Australia. T/T urbanism is a major recent global movement in urban planning and design. It encompasses a myriad of small, experimental design projects led by diverse actors that transform underutilized urban spaces, ranging from temporary parks and container villages to informal ‘DIY’ and ‘guerrilla’ urbanism.

Advocates argue T/T urbanism heralds a more agile future for urban design and planning, enhancing urban intensity, community engagement, innovation, resilience and local identity. While T/T projects’ short-term benefits are often apparent, their broader and longer-term problems and impacts are harder to discern.

This study examines the diverse, dynamic assemblages of actors, interests and contexts that constitute different T/T approaches, and the varied ways they intersect with the wider public interest. It explores how T/T urbanism’s innovations might link to the deregulated planning regimes, austerity policies, inequities and gentrification of neoliberal urban development, and the decline of long-term state planning and investment.

This paper discusses the distinctive ways T/T urbanism is defined and enacted in the Australian context, drawing upon a database of ninety projects identified in six cities, an analysis of state and local policies that shape temporary and tactical urbanism, and interviews with expert practitioners from the public, private and non-profit sectors. The findings suggest a need to better understand how the various actor relationships forged through temporary and tactical urbanism link to a variety of broader urban planning and management interests.

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