There is growing momentum to get “back to the basics” of what makes cities thrive. Many of the most effective and immediate solutions are lighter, quicker, and cheaper than traditional top-down approaches to improving cities.
The quality of a public space has always been best defined by the people who use it. The growing success of “Lighter, Quicker, Cheaper” (LQC) projects all over the world is proof that expensive and labor-intensive initiatives are not the only, or even the most effective, ways to bring energy and life into a community’s public space.
United under the core principles of community vision, cost-effectiveness, collaboration, and citizen-led change, this exciting movement goes by many names—action-planning, guerilla urbanism, pop-up projects, city repair, D.I.Y. Urbanism, and Tactical Urbanism. We see each of these efforts as important tools and catalysts for larger community-based Placemaking processes.
“Lighter, Quicker, Cheaper” is a phrase we borrowed from Eric Reynolds in 2010 to describe the simple, short-term, and low-cost solutions that are having remarkable impacts on the shaping of neighborhoods and cities. PPS began to chronicle many of these solutions in the 2007 book: The Great Neighborhood Book: A Do-It-Yourself Guide to Placemaking. Since we began our work in 1975, we have used Lighter, Quicker, Cheaper interventions to address all kinds of public space challenges, and the impacts of these projects have been lasting and profound.
The proliferation of LQC efforts all over the world signals the emergence of a powerful, networked, and creative movement, and it shows that more and more people are beginning to see how communities can be created and transformed by making a series of affordable, human-scale, and near-term changes. Although many of the challenges facing today’s cities go well beyond the scope of these individual interventions, taken together they demonstrate that incremental and place-led change is possible, even in the midst of ongoing social, economic, and political obstacles.
One of the greatest advantages of LQC is the ability to create and test a project immediately and with direct community involvement. Initial LQC projects are often temporary—relatively inexpensive alterations to a public space that take place while more long-range projects grind through the lengthy development pipeline. Bringing multiple and wide-ranging benefits to communities, the early implementation of LQC projects can help:
- Bring life and amenities to previously lifeless public spaces
- Break down resistance to change, while empowering vulnerable or overlooked communities who may have lost faith even in the possibility of change
- Generate the interest of potential investors, both public and private
- Establish (or re-establish) a neighborhood or region’s sense of community
- Inform best practices for later planning efforts
- Encourage community buy-in (by demonstrating, for example, how a new street design would impact traffic flows not only for cars, but also for pedestrians, cyclists, and public transit)
- Bring together diverse stakeholders in generating solutions and a collective vision
- Foster a community’s sense of pride in, and ownership of, their public spaces
Although a Lighter, Quicker, Cheaper approach is not for every situation (it may not be the right solution, for example, for large infrastructural projects like building a bridge—though that would surely be interesting!), it can be a creative, locally-powered alternative to the kind of capital-heavy and top-down planning processes that so often yield end results that are completely detached from the needs and desires of the communities they are meant to serve.
About the LQC resource page
This page will be home to an interactive and evolving set of resources that will provide new ideas and tools for turning public spaces within your community into quality shared places. The techniques are designed to generate visible results quickly, and at a cost that is amenable to the budget of any city or community.
Our approach to this site will be from an LQC mindset as well: Rather than waiting to gather every piece of relevant information on the process, we will instead include frequent and inclusive commentary. We want this to be a project created by and useful to everyone—professionals, community members, and advocates alike—and we invite you to submit stories, case studies, and other relevant information so that we can create a broad archive of LQC resources and best practices. The public realm belongs to all of us, and we should all play a part in shaping its future.
To submit your ideas and for more information on our LQC work, send an email to Nidhi Gulati at firstname.lastname@example.org
Stay tuned for more resources and tools!
How does Lighter, Quicker, Cheaper complement Placemaking?
Lighter, Quicker, Cheaper is a Placemaking strategy that empowers communities to create great places in their neighborhoods, cities, or regions. Short-term LQC improvements – whether it’s new amenities, programming, art, or design changes – are part of a larger and more permanent vision for a particular site. Think of LQC as a way to generate excitement, new partnerships, and support for long-term Placemaking efforts and projects in your community. By helping you to make improvements quickly and inexpensively, LQC is a way to avoid common roadblocks like planning fatigue, bureaucratic approvals, and protracted fundraising. Its incremental and grassroots approach also provides an avenue for collaboration and community building, and it can help stakeholders at all levels to establish lasting partnerships.
Is LQC a process or the product?
Lighter, Quicker, Cheaper is a process that helps create great products -sustainable places that highlight local assets and attract people. Say, for example, that you have a neglected park in your neighborhood, but your city or region can’t afford the substantial cost of upgrading the space through traditional capital improvement processes. LQC is a way for communities and partners to think creatively about low-cost improvements that can be implemented quickly—like organizing public programs in the park, or a clean-up event with local volunteers. Even the smallest and simplest efforts can lead to big change. To be truly great, every public space needs long-term management and maintenance so that it can continually adapt to the emerging needs of the community it serves. Instead of planning places as end products, LQC celebrates them as ever-evolving works in progress.
Who can participate in LQC?
Anyone can kick-start an LQC process, but its success is based on the involvement of people from all sectors. LQC efforts should include everyone—citizens, community leaders, activists, business owners, nonprofits, and city officials. LQC is about collectively transforming spaces and making positive changes for everyone to enjoy.
How light is light?
The “light” in Lighter, Quicker, Cheaper refers to a project’s flexibility. An LQC strategy allows for experimentation over time. Places are always evolving alongside the needs and desires of the people that use them, and the flexibility of LQC interventions helps to nurture this dynamic relationship between people and place. An example of a “light” touch might involve a neighborhood block applying for a temporary street closure, or a small business owner or park organization opting for moveable seats and outdoor tables rather than permanent infrastructure modifications. Regardless of actual scale, “light” is about making manageable and flexible interventions rather than heavy capital improvements. Along with the satisfaction of seeing immediate results, this also means that if something doesn’t work, there is room to try something else without much economic burden.
How cheap is cheap?
Rather than referring to a specific dollar amount, the “cheap” in Lighter, Quicker, Cheaper reflects a fundamental shift away from design-led capital investments and towards affordable programming and management solutions. Some LQC projects can be extremely cheap while others might require more spending, but they are always cheaper than traditional public space design projects. Depending on the goals and budget of a particular project, “cheap” could be simply the cost of materials for making homemade planters to beautify a neighborhood sidewalk. On the other hand, more ambitious or large-scale interventions will cost tens of thousands of dollars—still “cheap” in comparison to hugely expensive and time-consuming capital projects.
And how quick is quick?
The “quick” in Lighter, Quicker, Cheaper means that to launch an LQC project, you don’t need to wade through the numerous bureaucratic codes, approvals, or licensing issues associated with full-build-out projects. Further, LQC projects are not held back by long planning timelines since the design and function of the place is determined by user experience over time.
How is LQC different or similar from other popular practices or movements like Tactical Urbanism, Pop-Up Urbanism, or DIY Urbanism?
Lighter, Quicker, Cheaper is an implementation strategy that emerges from the larger framework of Placemaking. In many ways, depending on the project and circumstance, LQC overlaps with missions of tactical urbanism, pop-up urbanism, DIY urbanism, etc.— each movement has its own nuances and particular strategies, but they are all united under the common principle of making low-cost and low-risk changes to improve the relationship between people and their environment. The core of LQC projects is that they are created with rather than for a community. A collective and participatory process, LQC is a strategy for building community capacity through place.
Is LQC appropriate and applicable to small towns and rural communities?
Yes. LQC is applicable to places of all scales, from large urban centers to small towns and rural communities. The LQC approach has been hugely successful in invigorating Main Streets in small towns and rural areas, and in activating the spaces around civic and cultural institutions like libraries and schools in these communities. LQC is about using Placemaking to create positive change in communities by giving new life to its public spaces—a goal that remains the same regardless of population size.
When might a capital project be more appropriate than LQC?
LQC is not a silver bullet solution to all public space issues—sometimes a community or project requires large-scale infrastructure improvements that are beyond the scope and mission of LQC. For a Lighter, Quicker, Cheaper strategy to be appropriate and successful, the site must have several already-existing qualities: It must have adequate accessibility and linkage, for example, so that people can safely travel to, and stay in, the destination. If this is not the case, certain capital improvements should be the priority. Once components like accessibility, safety, and overall comfort have been addressed, it may be the right moment to think about some LQC strategies.
If you have a question please send an email to Nidhi Gulati at email@example.com.