Tactical Appropriations in the Urban Realm: Informal Practices and Reinventions in the Contemporary City

Patrizio M. Martinelli*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


The paper investigates tactical practices, informal interventions, and spontaneous appropriations that design the public realm of the contemporary city. This investigation begins with the reflections of Carlo Giulio Argan, and his phenomenological interpretation of the city as an artifact experienced through informal practices that contradict the formal order of the planned city. This approach echoes the Situationist critique of the modern urban environment, based on intuitive drifting in the urban realm and on unexpected appropriations of places, as a reaction to the formality of the city shaped by authority, politics, economy. This opposition between “magisterial view” and “plebeian view” (as defined by historian Brian Ladd) is theoretically framed in de Certeau’s ruminations on strategy and tactics in the city. The former represents spaces designed by abstract models that express regulations, constraints, and limitations: it is the instrument of power to plan, manage and control spatial and social phenomena in the long term. The latter is defined by short-term and spatially limited interventions, reactions, and actions that revise, reinterpret and reinvent pre-planned strategies and spaces. This duality is recognizable in the recent operative investigations of Tactical Urbanism, with projects for abandoned and under-utilized urban fragments, and in the re-inventions of public space, in particular of the street, in the COVID-19 era. These temporary and bottom-up punctual interventions represent modalities of appropriations of the urban space whose intentions and effects are to respond to criticalities and to repair the failures of the modern and contemporary discourse on urban public space.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationInformality and the City
Subtitle of host publicationTheories, Actions, and Interventions
EditorsGregory Marinic, Pablo Meninato
Place of PublicationCham, Switzerland
Number of pages17
ISBN (Electronic)9783030999261
ISBN (Print)9783030999254, 9783030999285
Publication statusPublished - 6 Oct 2022


Dive into the research topics of 'Tactical Appropriations in the Urban Realm: Informal Practices and Reinventions in the Contemporary City'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this