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Advanced-Level Placemaking Recipes

10 pop-up demonstration projects to inspire great spaces

This article is an excerpt from The Pop-Up Placemaking Tool Kit, a free publication by AARP and the planning and design firm Team Better Block. The advanced-level projects shown below are good for people who work for a county or municipality planning office, have secured local government support for a pop-up demonstration and/or have experience in urban planning, architecture, design or a related field.

All photos by Team Better Block

Basketball Court Murals

Painting the surface of an old, asphalt basketball court livens up the space and can provide the community with a sense of identity and ownership.

Basketball Court Murals

Columbus, Ohio


Beer Garden

When alcohol is served at a pop-up event, it should be done in a spot where access can be restricted to people 21 or older. With a little creativity, such a space can be designed and constructed to not look like a cattle corral.

Beer Garden

Pittsfield, Massachusetts


Digitally Fabricated Seating

Having a place where passersby can stop and rest is an important part of placemaking. Simply placing chairs or benches on a sidewalk or lawn is often enough to convince people to stop and take a break. Prefabricated, some-assembly-required outdoor seating options are available at pop-up affordable prices.

Digitally Fabricated Seating

Columbus, Ohio


Facade Facelifts

Having a place where passersby can stop and rest is an important part of placemaking. Simply placing chairs or benches on a sidewalk or lawn is often enough to convince people to stop and take a break. Prefabricated, some-assembly-required outdoor seating options are available at pop-up affordable prices.

Storefront Facade

Pittsfield, Massachusetts


Hexagon Bulbouts

Street-slimming bulbouts are installed to slow vehicle speeds in areas used by pedestrians. Among the many ways to create a bulbout is to place modular blocks in or along a roadway. Some models can be equipped with technology for gathering traffic and pedestrian data.

Hexagon Bulbouts

Birmingham, Alabama


Plywood Murals

Murals, which can be temporary or permanent, are traditionally painted directly onto an existing surface, such as a wall or ceiling. When neither is available (or permission to paint on one isn’t granted), plywood makes a suitable canvas. If a professional artist isn’t available to draw or paint a masterpiece, create or buy precut shapes (see colorful fish below) and have volunteers do the painting.

Plywood Mural with Fish

Des Moines, Iowa (mural); Fort Worth, Texas (fish inset)


Rubber Traffic Barriers

Modular rubber blocks and barriers can create traffic calming interventions such as bulbouts, pedestrian islands and traffic roundabouts.

Rubber Barriers

Greensboro, North Carolina, and Bethel, Vermont


Scaffolding Market

A semi-permanent venue created with a scaffold system can be used to test whether residents will support the types of stores, businesses and eateries that set up shop. Such structures are often used at farmers markets, craft fairs and other mobile retail setups.

Scaffolding Market

Haverhill, Massachusetts


Traffic Roundabouts (Semi-Permanent)

Using rubber curbing and delineator posts to create a traffic calming circle can make a pop-up demonstration roundabout last for years.

Traffic Roundabouts

Fort Worth, Texas


Umbrella Alley

Hanging opened umbrellas above an alleyway can make an empty or underutilized outdoor space noticeable, welcoming and — when equipped with seating and tables — usable by passersby and the occupants of adjacent buildings.

Umbrella Alley

Pittsfield, Massachusetts


Find "recipes" for how to create the projects shown above: TeamBetterBlock.org/Recipes.

Page published November 2019


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