Architecture, historically, has dedicated itself to permanence: in the 19th century to monuments and memorials, in the 20th century to symbols of corporate ascendance. Yet cities are in a constant state of formation & transformation—both physical and cultural. Despite fastidious attempts at control, cities evolve far faster than policy or the profession is quite ready to allow. City planning and permitting is notoriously slow, and typically everything, from skyscraper to food truck to protest, needs a permit.
Yet the “temporary” is alive and kicking. Grass roots efforts in cities across the country are producing a spate of fleeting architecture, what Margaret Crawford would call temporary urbanisms. These acts of city-making offer up the provisional as an alternative to a hyper-regulated, focus-tested built environment, and engage the amateur to author a piece of our landscape.
One day, 125 square feet:
Last Friday, for the fourth year in a row, Park(ing) Day reemerged to claim parking spots across the country. Conceived in 2005 by Rebar, a
One week, 5 square miles
Whether you love to love it or love to hate it, Burning Man is an inescapable topic in the Bay Area come August. The yearly event draws nearly 50,000 people to
Like Park(ing) Day, the ‘developers’ of
As disappearing acts, these occurrences are instances of the alignment of urbanism and culture that are intentional, only temporarily physical, but enduring in the subconscious of our landscape. (Park)ing Day and Burning Man are only a couple of examples of a phenomenon that may signal the reordering of authorship—giving an opportunity for the presence of more voices in our built environment. Equally significant, these acts of appropriation model the possibilities of using space to voice (more on this topic in a future post). Where once property ownership determined our right to vote, perhaps in the digital age, we can supplant land grabs and monumental symbols with the power of a fleeting urbanism, with structures built not to last.
Henri Lefebvre, in The Production of Space, writes of the underlying power structures that our uses of space make manifest:
“…we can see how a counter-space can insert itself into spatial reality: against the Eye and the Gaze, against quantity and homogeneity, against power and the arrogance of power, against the endless expansion of the ‘private’ and of industrial profitability; and against specialized spaces and a narrow localization of function. … Naturally, too, it happens that a counter-space and a counter-project simulate existing space, parodying it and demonstrating its limitation, without for all that escaping its clutches.”
Lefebvre, Herni. The Production of Space. Donald Nicholson-Smith, trans. (Blackwell Publishing, Malden 1991: 382).