The Urbanism Dad We Deserve

Vignesh Swaminathan, civil engineer turned TikTok star, tries to bring us closer to cities that work better with every viral touch of his handsome, perfectly waxed mustache

All this week, join us for a deliciously sick celebration of our internet pals. They are gentle, handsome men we have never met, and we look forward to sharing the fully formed relationships we have with each of them.

In an app full of beautiful people preening, dancing, and fidgeting for their personal causes, there’s no one quite like Mr. Barricade, the mustachioed daddy of city planning and perfectly tailored suits.

Mr. Barricade is the alter ego of Vignesh Swaminathan, a Bay Area native who runs his own civil engineering company, Carrefour Lab in Cupertino, California. As part of his day job, he has helped build miles of bike paths and erect protected street corners that reduce collisions between pedestrians and turning cars, often working in cities that lack the planning resources to approach such projects differently. Swaminathan was even commissioned to design all the bike lanes in and around the Facebook campus in Menlo Park.

It was through this work that he first earned his nickname. “I was the guy who managed the cones and the barriers and I drew diagrams on how to install them”, Swaminathan Told the Mercury News in 2021. “I worked with event coordinators to see what they needed to close downtown streets. At that point, people started calling me Mr. Barricade.

He opened a TikTok account in September 2020, mostly focusing on being handsome and goofy in his bedroom. But then he started filming content in open channel drains, and it seems the intersection of male hosiery and public infrastructure was enough to catch the wave of algorithms. During the pandemic, Mr. Barricade has become one of the app’s most recognizable and beloved figures, tripling its subscriber count. It’s now watched by 1.4 million people, garnering views with a seductive mix of charismatic thirst traps, informative explainers and clever TikTok trending twists.

Is there anything Mr. Barricade can’t do (and/or bend)? Right here we see Swaminathan posing atop a flood wall, thrilling us with the flourishing signature of his mustache rubbing. He’s there arise to help a confused young man understand how bridges are built across bodies of water. Here he is, uh, about to eat a burrito during lip sync! Regardless of the exact content, its commitment to vibrate strong and affirming the masculine strength of his facial hair has cultivated a core of fans who identify as Mr. Barricade’s #DrainGang.

A typical selection of fan reactions to Mr. Barricade

What’s it like to fall in love with #DrainGang? I can only speak for myself, but I think it’s about advancing the promise of safe streets and infrastructure that works. I think it’s about denigrating the automotive hegemony we live in and struggle anti-pedestrian propaganda, one twist of the mustache at a time. I think it is to revel in the joys of himbo energy and shitposterintertwined with real facts that amaze you. It’s all about fighting for change while looking hot and having fun, even if the task at hand is, uh, a technical urban planning strategy.

Against all odds, Mr. Barricade danced and stunted its way to a loyal fanbase, radicalizing young people to care about how the built environment affects our world and our society. In return, they created a running gag in his honor, repeating the comment: “It’s just amazing how this man has managed to master the balance between niche industry specific content and trending content. “, or a riff on it, on each video.

It might be a joke, but this exact meme strikes at the heart of what makes Mr. Barricade so adorable and unique in the first place. Luckily for us, there’s no shortage of public infrastructure issues in California – and Swaminathan will be ready to strike in his perfectly tailored suits, inspiring the #DrainGang and finding a way to make trending pop audio a referendum on safe streets. .