Aria Bendix is a frequent contributor to The Atlantic, and a former editorial fellow at CityLab. Her work has appeared on Bustle and The Harvard Crimson.
This year saw more than its fair share of inspiring projects.
The tactical urbanism movement has come a long way since the parklets and painted crosswalks of years past. These days, it’s hard not to come across a new self-starter project designed to remedy a neighborhood or even a citywide issue. This year’s best projects ran the gamut from downright adorable innovations to ideas with the potential to transform our urban spaces.
Although 2015 by no means marked the genesis of chairbombing, it did usher in some pretty clever projects in this realm. One in particular—spearheaded by the urban strategist and communications professional Gracen Johnson—helped to provide a much-needed resting spot in the small city of Fredericton, New Brunswick. By painting and re-purposing tree stumps, Johnson and her neighbors fashioned a kaleidoscope of seating near the local farmer’s market. Even though a homeowner eventually asked for the stumps to be removed, Johnson’s design allowed for them to be easily discarded without damaging the land. While her project certainly demonstrates the risks of DIY urbanism, it also addresses a crucial need for more strategically-placed seating in our urban areas.
There’s a lot to admire about this $4,328 “DIY Loft Kit” from Expand Furniture. The loft (shown below) features a 160-square-foot mezzanine, wood staircase, and a wrap-around railing. The structure is ideal for an office or hang-out space in a cramped apartment that happens to have high ceilings, although it’s certainly no substitute for an additional bedroom. Then again, it still might be preferable to sharing a bunk-bed in San Francisco.
In China, a shop called Bamboo Bicycles Beijing teaches customers how to assemble, paint, and design bike frames for around $322 using raw bamboo (seats, wheels, and handlebars cost extra). And over in London, Bamboo Bicycle Club has created DIY kits that run from $350 to $450.
“Guerilla wayfinding” started catching on back in 2012 thanks in part to the launch of Walk [Your City], a website that allows users to create their own signs indicating the distance to nearby attractions and amenities. This February, the website implemented pilot campaigns in Lexington, Kentucky, and San Jose, California, that aimed to inform city residents on how to create more walkable places. With so many cities plagued by traffic and congestion, DIY wayfinding provides a welcome reminder of just how easy it can be to navigate cities on foot.
Makeshift bike lanes
Back in October, an anonymous “Transformation Department” decided they had had enough of New York City drivers disrespecting bike lanes. To remedy the situation, the activists began sectioning off the lanes using traffic cones (many of which featured sunflowers sprouting from the top). In a city where cars frequently park in designated bike lanes, makeshift separators have turned into a necessary short-term solution.
This past March, the city of Boston demonstrated some great DIY ideas that could help us all cope with impending snow. Nothing cuts through the freezing cold like a sip of booze and a chat with your neighbor. One man even decided to construct a cycling tunnel through a mound of snow in order to access his nearest T station. UPDATE 12/31: CityLab reader Ari Goldberger writes in to clarify that his snow tunnel was *not* in fact designed in order to reach the T. “The real reason for the snow tunnel was to be able to continue using my route of choice to get between home and work, entirely by bicycle,” says Goldberger. Duly noted!
What DIY projects inspired you this year? Share your ideas in the comments.