This paper investigates alternative approaches to statutory consultations in privateled regeneration projects. It explores decision-making processes for more locally relevant, place-based investments in shared urban space. It presents practice-led research about performative tactics, open-ended investigative action, to influence traditional processes of development and statutory consultation toward greater social sustainability. It focuses on the example of a temporary legal street-occupation, an activention, in Belfast, Northern Ireland. The occupation responded to proposals to create a new public square as an “iconic meeting place” to spur regeneration in an existing marginalized neighbourhood. The paper argues that the formal proposals were based on top-down strategies that set-out limiting detailed designs based on the input of “key stakeholders” and consultants. Using anonymous surveys from event participants and public-private stakeholders, the paper compares and contrasts perspectives about more experimental visioning and consultation tactics, drawn from global thinkers and practitioners. It aims to foster deeper public-private-government conversations about existing public space qualities and place-driven potential. Through a reflective discussion, the author’s actions as an architect are also considered. An evidence-based argument, contextualized within UK and wider global discourse on sustainable communities, sets out how open-ended and performative strategies are perceived as a positive foil to more closed development decision-making, and can contribute to more proactive engagement with the public. Findings also support a greater focus on performative skills as means for architects to (re)frame their creative knowledge as tools for more transformative practices in complex city contexts.
- lighter-quicker-cheaper activention
- public space
- Belfast sustainability
- performative tactics