Photo: Pincurbia, the Pop-up Park
The Atlantic Magazine recently printed an article titled “Temporary is the New Permanent.” It explains that in our current economic climate, with cities low on cash and an abundance of empty lots and abandoned buildings, temporary projects are taking off. Why?
Because land owners and bureaucracies are often more willing to sign off on non-permanent creative projects that can be easily adapted or scrapped than long-term, infrastructure-heavy projects, which tend to be more expensive and less easily altered. It’s a matter of practicality. Another huge plus is that grassroots organizations, architects, designers and volunteers who want to impact their communities can take a much more active role in such projects.
This summer I heard John Bela, the founder of San Francisco’s Rebar Art & Design Studio, speak about the power of temporary projects.
One of the first and most well known Rebar projects is called PARK(ing) Day. The event started in 2005 when Rebar decided that for one day they would take over a metered parking space and transform it into a public park. The transformation called attention to San Francisco’s need for more public open space and demonstrated alternate uses for such valuable asphalt. In 2010 PARK(ing) Day was celebrated in 183 cities, 30 countries and 6 continents.
Every year thousands of people come up with wacky ways to occupy parking spots with interventions such as art installations, urban farms, kiddie pools, free bike-repair shops and free health care clinics, to name just a handful. The event is meant to spur dialogue about public space and show people just how much their community can benefit when just a small plot of land is temporarily repurposed. The hope is that one day, if a community deems alternative uses more important than traditional ones, certain spots could be permanently reclaimed.
Aspirations for our cities and towns are constantly evolving; long-term brick and mortar projects are not as flexible as temporary projects that can be remolded as our cultural values change. Maybe, instead of a having a small group of influential people insert a plan from above, we should allow the public to experience and understand interventions through pilot projects, then allow them to assess the project before any long-term decisions are made.
Here are a few cool examples of temporary projects happening around the globe:
In Oak Cliff, Texas, Jason Roberts and the Better Block Project, in true guerrilla activist style, used the addition of historic lighting, a flower market, live music, a café and a kids’ art studio to transform a car-centric corridor into a pedestrian centered destination. The 2-day project, which cost only $1000, was so successful that city hall is working to make the changes permanent.
In Vancouver, BC, a design firm called The Loose Affiliates created a temporary pop-up park called Picnurbia. The giant wave structure, covered in a squishy, yellow artificial turf, was placed in the heart of downtown in hopes of creating a place for people to gather, relax and, of course, picnic.
In San Francisco, a collaboration between the Mayor’s Office, the Hayes Valley Neighborhood Association, the Public Utilities Commission, the Department of Public Works and Rebar turned a former on- and off-ramp of the Central Freeway into a 2-acre vibrant community farm. Although the farm was forced to vacate the property to make way for condo development, the pilot project made people more aware of the benefits of urban agriculture. The farm was relocated and expanded in a new location.
Tell us about a temporary project you could imagine popping up in your community!