Over the next two weeks, Next City will unroll short profiles of 77 people, places and ideas that have changed cities this year. Together, they make up our 2012 Disruption Index. Forefront subscribers can download the Index in full as a PDF, complete with beautiful designs and graphics by Danni Sinisi. Readers who make a $75 donation to Next City will have a full-color printed copy of the Index mailed to them.
Not often is one faced with the dilemma of guerrilla wayfinding. But when helpful (though technically illegal) directional signs began popping up on telephone poles and streetlights throughout Raleigh, N.C. in February, pedestrians noticed. So did the city.
Instigated by a group calling itself Walk Raleigh, the signs told people at downtown intersections how long it would take them to walk to various sites and neighborhoods in town. Posted without city permits or input, the signs were deemed illegal and taken down. But, for Mitchell Silver, they also represented a really good idea. As Raleigh’s chief planning and economic development officer, not to mention president of the American Planning Association, Silver recognized that the signs actually meshed with the city’s own goal of encouraging multimodal transportation and lobbied to have them reinstalled. Widespread community support and a city council vote in March put the signs back on the street, turning a guerrilla intervention into a city-sanctioned wayfinding effort. Silver’s decision demonstrates the importance of having officials who are able to see good ideas outside the codebooks and willing to find ways to make them work within the rigid structure of city government.
Nate Berg is a writer and journalist covering cities, architecture and urban planning. Nate’s work has been published in a wide variety of publications, including the New York Times, NPR, Wired, Metropolis, Fast Company, Dwell, Architect, the Christian Science Monitor, LA Weekly and many others. He is a former staff writer at The Atlantic Cities and was previously an assistant editor at Planetizen.