Immanent Urbanism(s)

Immanent Urbanism(s) was a lecture series that I put together that sought to investigate the prospects and challenges of using urban space in ways that are contrary to its intended (designed) use. From the Immanent Urbanism(s) website:


Immanent Urbanism(s) considers the ways in which everyday people are shaping the modern city according to their own needs and specifications. The twentieth century witnessed a massive consolidation of control over the form and intended usage patterns of urban space. Today, the same established interests remain the dominant shapers of cities, shaping both the form of the metropolis, and coding the city’s spaces as parts within a larger economic engine composed of workplaces for production, commercial centers for consumption, homes for family life, and circulatory spaces for facilitating movement between these. Yet below the surface of the apparently well-behaved city is an intransigent and multitudinous universe of people making what they will of the urban situation that they have inherited. Many unauthorized, creative, immanent urban practices have challenged the prevailing urban coding and authorship of planned urban development, leading to new meanings, cultures and life modes. To complicate matters, state and market forces have caught on to these activities, and many “top-down” organizations seeking new audiences and new channels of influence are hatching their own seemingly “bottom-up” cultural movements and co-opting existing movements. What is the status of these immanent urbanisms today? What are the diverse motivations behind these immanent practices? How have they been shaped by historical precedents? How are they changing and challenging more dominant structures and paradigms? How are institutions responding? We invite you to come and explore this world of counter-urbanisms, from historical movements like the Situationist International, to cultural ubiquities such as graffiti and street skateboarding, to the informal settlements that have long been a fixture in developing countries, and the many instances of “DIY urbanism” and “Tactical Urbanism” that have actually become tactics of larger cultural and economic forces.



Spontaneum is a loose collective of 568 people that operates as a forum for strategizing about immanent, free and participatory uses of urban space, and a messaging board for promoting such activities. Many of the urban situations below were authored for and through Spontaneum. From the website's text:


All over the world, people are using urban space in unexpected and innovative ways, contrary to the designed intentions for those spaces. Spontaneum is a forum and an instrument for facilitating these kinds of urban (mis)uses.  Spontaneum is a new metropolis that extends the full range of latitudes and longitudes; Spontaneum is always free; Spontaneum is always in in-between and liminal spaces, therefore, Spontaneum is potentially everywhere; Spontaneum is in the tunnels and under the bridges and in-between buildings and in the beach beneath streets; Spontaneum is a dance party in a parking lot; Spontaneum is a fuzzy cuddle puddle in a shipping container storage facility; Spontaneum is a dinner party in an alleyway; Spontaneum is a movie projected under the freeway; Spontaneum is a rave in the trailer of a moving truck; Spontaneum is urban kayaking in the middle of the night; Spontaneum is the pink illumination of shit nobody cares about or notices (like overpasses, power pylons and forgotten factories); Spontaneum is an enclave of glowing bubbles and neon on a drizzly coast;  Spontaneum is a purple cloud in a verdant garden; Spontaneum is a hundred thousand communes; Spontaneum disrupts your plans when you stumble across it, because it’s so much better; Spontaneum is a new metropolis that can’t be gentrified because it is everywhere and nowhere, whose rhizomatic roots lie dormant beneath the streets; Spontaneum is a metropolis composed of temporary autonomous zones that spring in and out of existence every night—a city that wakes up when everyone else has gone to bed, and operates a parallel mode of life in and on the infrastructures of the ordinary metropolis. Every 13-year-old Ukrainian kid doing the Drum & Bass step in an abandoned lot or on top of a parking garage is in Spontaneum, and so is every street skater, every warehouse raver, every sideshow, every night market, every bike party; every urban exploration or dérive. But Spontaneum is not everything. Spontaneum is not a party; Spontaneum is not a nightclub; Spontaneum is not a bar; Spontaneum is not a career; Spontaneum is not a pay-to-play, cover charge, need-I.D., paid-for venue; Spontaneum is not for sale; Spontaneum is not a corporate event; Spontaneum has no sponsors, donors or investors. Every denizen of Spontaneum is creative about the way in which they inhabit space and time; when and where they do things; the way that they use private and public space; and, ultimately, the way that they share resources with others. In Spontaneum, anything is possible.


Below are some of the Spontaneum events that we have thrown.

Spontaneous Haze

The fern gardens in Golden Gate Park are extremely bizarre on their own, but dramatic purple smoke made matters even stranger. The juxtaposition of nature and artificial color plumes became an immediate tourist fascination, and park visitors flocked to the area to find a group of us sitting among the ferns reading poetry aloud.

Alleyway Dinners

We began having dinner parties in alleyways on a weekly basis. The dinners would be in a different alleyway each week, and there would be hot soup provided at every meal. The hope was that people would suddenly realize that the backs of buildings were more usable than the fronts of buildings, and that in these under-appreciated trash and equipment corridors, new ways of being together could be created.

Watching the trash get compacted over wine and bubbles (we had a bubble machine)

Street Cinema

The streets can be anything . . . even a movie theater! We serve popcorn at our monthly BYOC (chair) movie nights, were we project a new movie in a different location each time.

Pop-up Lounges

Making little incongruous pockets of intensity--this is the aim of the pop-up lounges. Placing these little sumptuous islands in harsh landscapes where they are least expected is a strategy of refusal of locked meanings. All it takes are some pillows, a few shag rugs, some battery-powered fairy lights and a few friends, and you can have a furry pocket of cuddle space in the dingiest of disappointing settings.

Spontaneous Dance Parties

We've been playing with how to throw spontaneous dance parties in urban spaces, using an apparatus of lights, speakers and social media to generate a flash-party in the streets. Here is a guide for building off-the-grid sound systems, and here is a guide to tricked-out lighting.



Lighting up the many unnoticed features of the city is an easy way to steal attention from the parts of the city that you're supposed to be paying attention to. It also makes a great setting for a social gathering. No bridge is a bad bridge to congregate beneath.

We lit the underside of this bridge, which traverses the American River, and went skinny dipping to music, alternating between dancing and swimming.