Blueprints vs. Tactics: The Case of Neighborhood Planning

Authors: Emily Talen*, University of Chicago
Topics: Urban and Regional Planning
Keywords: neighborhood planning, neighborhood change, plan-making
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/7/2019
Start / End Time: 2:00 PM / 3:40 PM
Room: 8224, Park Tower Suites, Marriott, Lobby Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


There is an inherent tension between the making of a plan and the need to accommodate change. This paper reviews the case of neighborhood planning. Neighborhood plans have often been all-at-once, expert driven formulations rather than flexible strategies designed to accommodate change. Rarely are neighborhood plans expressed in incremental terms, as urban planners struggle to develop a language and methodology capable of implementing neighborhood ideals in a way that does not invoke blueprints. On the other hand, if there is no understanding of how incremental achievement leads to the gradual building up of something whole, small improvements may seem like piecemeal shots in the dark, benefitting one landlord, one property owner, one gentrifier at a time. This paper provides a framework for understanding how a number of “blueprint vs. tactic” tensions might be resolved. Can desirable neighborhood forms be achieved by being fluid and highly adaptive, without the reliance on predetermined plans? To what extent do the processes of neighborhood – tactical, empowering, bottom-up – conflict with the idea of a planned neighborhood? How can individual possibility be maximized, with minimal limits on opportunity and movement, within the context of bounded urban space? When does the unplanned, authentic spontaneity of the bottom-up neighborhood require some level of planning in order to be “smart” or sustainable? How much is neighborhood identity required for community activism and self-help actualization, and how much does identity correlate with the neighborhood as a planned, physical entity?

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