Week 04 Reading Response

In the reading, Whyte mentions in the reading that before building a space, in fear of over crowding, to see how people utilize the space they are provided with. They started a project called “The Street Life Project”, in which they would observe the space throughout the day to see how people fluctuate and move about the space. In conducting there were working from the concept of “good urban spaces: supply creates demand”. What they found was that the plazas did not, in fact, create overcrowding- people fluctuated in and out of the space throughout the day. The plaza was busiest during rush hour, when people were on their breaks, or had a little free time. Also, as the day went on, and as the sun moved throughout the day, people would follow. In doing so, this allowed for movement, and therefore a constant flow of traffic in and out of the space.

This reading and “Tactical Urbanism” remind me of a video I recently about social conformity.


(In this video, there is a girl in a public waiting room with a room full of actors. The actors will all stand and sit back down at the sound of a buzzer in the room. They do this for a few times, at first the girl does not participate, but eventually she gives in)

Embedded in each person, is the action to follow the crowd, and we do this as a survival tactic. In the reading, For example, in the Whyte reading and film, people naturally follow a pattern without being directed to- moving with the sunlight in the plazas, or the act of “brushing hair” or disinterest. The latter are actions that people take on when they’re trying to attract a mate without being too forward, these are actions that are inherent to everyone and everyone perform these actions even subconsciously. Another example Whyte gave is that of women and public spaces; women are more prone to sit in a populated plaza, however, they will not sit in a public plaza if the majority of the population is male.

Social conformity is an idea that, I feel, is also prevalent in the “Tactical Urbanism”, however instead of talking about people as individuals, they are talking about people as groups (in cities and towns). Tactical urbanism is the improvement or expansion of city resources starting from a small scale. I think of it as giving the residents the least amount, and without being pushed to so expanding upon what they were given. This is also interesting, because when people are told directly to do something, oftentimes there is a backlash to it, NIMBYism. However, if people are asked to participate, or if they are introduced an idea gradually, some residents might even be inclined to finish the projects themselves (like the painted sidewalk). Guerrilla urbanism is the term that they used in which city repairs are not done from the city, however, from the residents themselves. This can sometimes be more effective, because there will less likely be backlash from the residents, therefore being more receptive of the change. Also, by allowing the residents to make the changes themselves, the city sometimes will save a lot of money in allowing the residents make an improvement on their own (which will be more fitting to their needs), then expanding upon it on a larger scale.

People are social beings, and we’re made to “fit in” (whether we are receptive of that idea or not). To participate is to to feel accepted, otherwise there is a sense of awkwardness.


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