The Ephemeral Nature of Architecture

It has almost become self-implicit that good architecture has to be timeless. However this term may be used so loosely not even knowing why a building is revered to as timeless. There are a multitude of arguments about this concept in design but only recently have I discovered individuals who have attempted to explore the other side. This counter-intuitive way of looking at the architecture opens new tunnels into what can be constructed with the fabric of the built environment.

In its basic state architecture can be seen to rely heavily on the notion of permanence, the certainty that a building will and has to keep standing over time. On the other side of the spectrum a temporary construction focuses on the gap between the impermanent present and an uncertain future. What is temporary is also in itself mutable with its environment, such a new perspective leads to new ways of designing with different objectives to keep in mind. Daniel D’Oca, an urban planner and designer gives insight into how together with his team at Interboro Partners, take on temporary projects. Particularly having designed temporary public spaces, this New York City-based architecture, planning, and research firm says “We don’t ever go into a project with any preconceived idea... Whatever we do we always try to bring participation into it.. It’s important to make architecture that makes people feel like it's theirs, makes them feel welcome”. Public consultation is not just part of their design process but revolves solely around it so communities are more welcome to development. Therefore were architects and designers take pride in seeing their buildings and spaces outlast generations even sometimes their own lifespan, temporary architecture reaches its fulfilment in what a space or structure is able to cultivate within society in a period of time.

Most of the temporary architecture we know of exhibits itself as pop-up shops or commercial pavilions inevitably somewhat linking this genre of built environment with capital opportunism. Trade Fairs and Expo’s continue this commercial colonisation of space but if this is inevitable it is worth noting that temporality is key to producing more value. Some may cynically look at a a couple of shipping containers and recycled pallets transformed creatively to maybe disguise the big machinery and capitalism still going on behind a friendly upcycled stall. Moving away from the over commercialisation of the concept I see temporary architecture being truly manifested in shaping public spaces. The great initiatives undertaken with youthful engagement to merge the interactivity of temporary structures with civic needs. Converting workshops, meeting places and land that is yet to be developed into shape shifting spaces. Communities will be collaborating in shaping their own dwelling space, engaging in cognitive play. These small-scale temporary interventions may seem frivolous and carnivalesque but isn’t a carnival or festival after all a temporary discard of social hierarchies for the sake of joy? Environments could be more than designated locations but mind spaces where shared experiences can be amplified.