The Department of Urban Spontaneity

Have you ever felt the urge to paint that bus stop across the street a psychedelic rainbow? How would you like to grow some flowers on a barren street median? Would you grab a few cans of pop and go putt-putt golfing down a quiet city alley? If you answered yes to any of these, you may get into a bit of trouble with your local government. But what if that local government just happened to be progressive enough to support or even encourage these kinds of ideas. Enter the Department of Urban Spontaneity.

Just as more and more cities (people) continue to question the physicality of their places, so should government begin to openly embrace and catalyze grassroots change. One case in point is intersection painting. This simple and fun design intervention began with spontaneity, encountered governmental resistance (albeit gentle) and ultimately emerged as a victorious act of community. I propose to sideline the bureaucratic bottleneck and appoint a new post in the City. The very first Urban Spontaneitor, whose sole focus is to roam the streets and capture the essence of spontaneity and disperse it among the masses (please don’t ask me how this can be done, I’m just the idea guy).

The ultimate lesson is that a little peaceful anarchy can go a long ways towards strengthening your local community. Don’t be afraid to push the boundaries a little. Begin to look at the routes you take not as a channel for your body, but as a floodplain for your mind. That said, here is my tip to get you started. Carry a chunk of sidewalk chalk wherever you go. If you get an idea, write it down, and I mean down on the ground in front of you. It could be a picture, or a word, or a diagram of dance steps. It doesn’t matter as long as you shoot from the hip. Who knows, maybe the mayor will see it.

Check out these links for inspiration and design activism:

The Better Block – Dallas. Retaking the pedestrian block.

City Repair – Portland. Facilitating community.

The Stranger – Seattle. Think before you chalk!

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