Popular School for Urbanism




Topics: Sustainable and inclusive cities and buildings, Sustainable lifestyles and education
Keywords: tactical urbanism, participatory design, citizen empowerment, bottom-up interventions, neighborhood improvement.

Marije van Lidth de Jeude, Oliver Schütte

A-01 (A Company / A Foundation), Costa Rica / The Netherlands; mvldj@a-01.net


The vicious circle of spatial fragmentation and social segregation in Costa Rica’s Great Metropolitan Area has led citizens to underuse public spaces and withdraw into their own, individually controlled, life-worlds. The top-down interventions from national and local governments have not been able to revert this process.

The Popular School for Urbanism (PSU) offers courses open to all citizens, so they acquire the necessary urban planning and design skills and know-how regarding issues that affect their neighborhood. The objective is that citizens become more knowledgeable about the causes and effects of urban problems, learn how to address these problems and develop the tools to solve them in a participatory way as part of a learning-and-teaching process.

Each course consists of three parts: theory and best (vernacular) practices; solutions and design development; and practical implementation. During the theoretical part, complex technical ideas will be communicated by using non-technical language that is accessible to a diverse audience (citizens from different classes, genders, ages, ethnicities, educational levels, etcetera). The practical part includes urban interventions, which are co-financed by the municipality, citizens and/or local companies depending on the type of intervention. The topics are selected by the citizens themselves and addressed in order of priority. Through physical and social interventions identified and implemented by the citizens themselves, social cohesion and security are improved in their neighborhoods.

With the PSU, we are envisioning to make an innovative and very meaningful effort to improve the quality of life of citizens and to redefine the relationship of private and public stakeholders in urban development. The empowerment of citizens is key in enabling sustainable cities; strengthening the capacity of the citizens themselves for taking action in the improvement of their environment is a crucial tool in the future development of cities worldwide.


Marije van Lidth de Jeude has a master in cultural anthropology (with a specialization in gender and natural resources) and a bachelor in commercial economy, both from The Netherlands. She has a professional record of more than fifteen years in rural and urban sector development, in particular with multi- and bilateral donor-agencies, governmental institutions, cooperatives, small enterprises and civil society stakeholders. She has worked for organizations like Oxfam-Novib, UN organization IFAD and the Dutch Ministry for International Cooperation. Her expertise was established as program officer and during research and consultancy assignments related to all phases of the project-cycle with a focus on formulation and evaluation. She combines qualitative participatory research methods with quantitative data collection. Marije has specialized in the integral sustainability of cities, which implies a long-term impact that involves economic growth, a high quality spatial surrounding, a responsible use of natural resources and an equal social development. Some of her thematic specialisations are urban culture, participatory urban planning and design, public space appropriation, non-motorised transport, informal settlements, gender equity, social and economic vulnerability, migration, indigenous groups, SME and microfinance.