This is Temporary: Transient Architecture

What impact do you think these type of projects can have on an area in the long term?

MP: During the Chrisp Street Market project a Town Team was formed, which met regularly and was composed of representatives from the council, developers, residents and shop owners. The Town Team became this space of potential partnership and collaboration. That was a huge outcome of the project -- to create that structure of dialogue. And in the end the biggest question was, 'How can we keep this going?'

SO'C: It builds relationships slowly. It brings those conversations that are perhaps happening in the council offices, behind closed doors, into a public shared space. It lets you speak to people in their own language. Moving forward, that area is undergoing dramatic change, but because they've built these partnerships the residents are going to have a much stronger role in saying what is going to happen in the future.

A mechanical table brought food up from the kitchen to the diners on the level above. Photo Credit: Atelier Chan Chan

 

A mechanical table brought food up from the kitchen to the diners on the level above. Photo Credit: Atelier Chan Chan

MP: The temporary allows us to test solutions or to interrogate the possibilities of a particular place, yet such tests aren't just about materiality, form or construction techniques. We are much more interested in testing programmes and the use of particular places. Future users can experience the proposal for real. Unlike the dominant top-down place-making systems, where somebody decides what the perfect programme should be, the temporary lets the community try it out and listens to their opinion. It's very empowering.

Carolina Caicedo: From the lessons we've learnt at Chrisp Street we now have a suite of ideas, ranging from immediate, small-scale, £30k-budget, low-risk projects to much bigger projects that could slowly influence the market, but we're doing it by working with the people who are there. I suppose that is what the temporary allows -- that human-scale aspect.

Practice Architecture

A handful of up-and-coming, driven young architects and designers are eschewing traditional modes of education and practice in favour of a more resourceful, hands-on way of building. Practice Architecture is a London-based design-and-build practice founded in 2009 by Lettice Drake, Paloma Gormley and Henry Stringer. Past projects include The Yard Theatre in Hackney Wick, Frank's Cafe on the top of a multistorey car park in Peckham and the founding of a community workspace in South Kilburn with the Architecture Foundation. Consistent in its work has been its involvement in each stage of a project.

Frank’s Cafe was created by Practice Architecture on the top of a multi-storey car park in Peckham

Frank's Cafe was created by Practice Architecture on the top of a multistorey car park in Peckham

How did you start Practice Architecture?

We never intended to set up a practice. We work in a very informal way; we are not fully qualified architects, we have never had a formal contract, or been personally or professionally insured. We have always worked in relationships of trust and mutual responsibility -- an increasingly risky thing to do in a highly litigious culture. Apart from electricians we don't employ contractors but build everything ourselves with friends, lovers, family, students, volunteers and passers-by.

Following its first outing in 2009, the red tent-like structure has made a regular appearance each summer

Following its first outing in 2009, the red tent-like structure has made a regular appearance each summer

Did you set out to create temporary structures?

Most of the projects we have worked on began as temporary because that was the only way they could be instigated. There is a lot more space for risk in temporary projects; they offer a place to experiment and be inexperienced. Short-life projects can be a great way to test an idea that can then grow in strength, demonstrate itself, and potentially evolve into something more permanent.

Let's talk about Frank's Cafe in Peckham.

Part of our methodology is to design things in a way that they can be made by anyone. Initially, this was practically motivated as none of us really had any experience of building anything, but over time it has also developed into a language -- the buildings and structures describe and celebrate their means of construction.

The main pragmatic concern for Frank's was making sure it wouldn't be blown off. The solution was these giant ratchet straps that would latch the structure to the roof. The materials we used were readily available and cheap -- we used scaffolding planks for almost everything, bolting them together to make the heavier structural elements. We found a company that made drop-down sides for lorries to fabricate the oversized ratchet straps and red PVC roof.

The build began with 300 scaffolding boards that arrived at the bottom of the car park and that we slowly moved to the top on the roof of an old Volvo. Then we began working out how to put them together with a £10 Tesco skill saw and a few cordless drills. People turned up to help and things picked up pace. There was a fearless energy around at that time. The car park was this playground, lawless and full of people making, building, trying things out and working through the night.

The cafe was made for under £5,000 using old scaffolding planks and a PVC roof

The cafe was made for under £5,000 using old scaffolding planks and a PVC roof

What impact do you think Frank's Cafe has had on Peckham and temporary architecture in general?

When we first built Frank's we'd never heard the term 'pop-up', which is hard to imagine now as it has become so familiar. The cafe and sculpture exhibition became a very public and accessible demonstration that young people can have an impact on the city and can make their own place in it.

What advice would you give to a young student looking to follow the same route into architecture?

Perhaps what enabled us to begin to work in this way was time and space. Perhaps we wouldn't have been able to do it if we'd started with the intention of setting up an architecture practice, which immediately conjures up images of a fixed workplace, filing systems, contracts and salaries -- things which might have distracted us from just getting on with it. The projects have all been attempts to make places for a shared culture to be explored -- to make places of production, coming together and play. What has defined that experience has been working with our peers, taking risks and continuing to dream a bit, believing that things are possible and that you don't have to accept the territory you are given.

Plastique Fantastique

Plastique Fantastique is a Berlin-based platform for temporary architecture, founded by Marco Canevacci, that samples the performative possibilities of urban environments. Established in 1999, Plastique Fantastique specialises in creating pneumatic installations as alternative, adaptable, low-energy spaces for temporary and ephemeral activities, from London's Clerkenwell Design Week to a recent teaching workshop in Cyprus. These inflatable or pneumatic structures play with the potential of urban context, augmenting our perception of the city and animating the senses by squeezing themselves into narrow streets or inside buildings.

The Emotion Maker at Clerkenwell Design Week (2011) housed an all-consuming, interactive sound installation that could only be experienced by two people at a time. Photo Credit: Marco Canevacci

The Emotion Maker at Clerkenwell Design Week (2011) housed an all-consuming, interactive sound installation that could only be experienced by two people at a time. Photo Credit: Marco Canevacci

How did you start Plastique Fantastique?

Marco Canevacci: I moved to Berlin in 1991 and I was quite impressed with the underground life there: you had this special sensitivity about temporary spaces since the East German state collapsed, so everybody was proposing a mix of cultural and hedonistic activities in all the abandoned areas you might find in the middle of East Berlin. I had come from Rome, which was quite the opposite situation. I finished my studies and rented an empty factory of 2,000 sq m in the area of Friedrichshain. Since it was impossible to heat it, I started to make some bubbles and fill them with hot air. That was the beginning of the experience and I realised the potential of designing these kinds of architecture, and we started to move around Europe doing different installations.

The Emotion Maker attempted to break down the boundaries between strangers and the public space within a city. Photo Credit: Marco Canevacci

The Emotion Maker attempted to break down the boundaries between strangers and the public space within a city. Photo Credit: Marco Canevacci

What attracts you to temporary architecture?

MC: I think there's something magical about a structure popping up in 20 minutes and at the same time disappearing as fast as it inflates itself. I'm interested in this because with standard architecture it takes a really long time to express yourself, and after a couple of years you might have something different in your mind.

Sound of Light placed an inflatable structure into an early 20th-century music pavilion in Hamm, Germany in 2014. Photo Credit: Marco Canevacci / Simone Serlenga

Sound of Light placed an inflatable structure into an early 20th-century music pavilion in Hamm, Germany in 2014. Photo Credit: Marco Canevacci / Simone Serlenga

How do you hope people react to these structures?

MC: Most of our installations are quite playful works. It creates a communicative environment at once. It's a public thing, because people who don't know each other start to interact, communicate and interchange the experience you may have in this context.

How much are you involved with the events' programmes that go along with your structures?

MC: The structure is actually a tool to play with the urban landscape, then you add different layers, performances, audio systems, projections and so on to enhance a project itself. It could also be a banquet -- you could just invite the neighbours to cook something inside and share food together.

The transparent bubble fo Aeropolis popped up at different locations in Copenhagen in 2013. Photo Credit: Marco Canevacci / Simone Serlenga

The transparent bubble of Aeropolis popped up at different locations in Copenhagen in 2013. Photo Credit: Marco Canevacci / Simone Serlenga

What happens to your projects afterwards? Do they get reused?

MC: There are projects that we've done that have been reinterpreted for other conditions, and there are basic geometrical forms that you can use several times. During the Metropolis Festival 2013 in Copenhagen, we had an installation called Aeropolis. The pneumatic structure was designed with two optional tops (one mirrored and one transparent) to allow maximum mobility and flexibility during its tour through 13 locations around the city.

It offered a communication platform for experiencing a sequence of activities with changing scenographies, all curated together with local cultural institutions: astronomy between two climbing walls in Nørrebro; kindergarten and hip-hop in front of a supermarket in Valby; meditation and yoga by a lake in Vanløse; performances at Islands Brygge; martial arts at Superkilen; lectures in Amager; a silent disco at one of the noisiest intersections of the city in Nordvest... If you take it as it is, it's just a geometric shape, but if you try to squeeze it into the existing environment it starts to change its shape and become something different, something you can apply to endless situations.

A gold ring wrapped itself around a building for the Kunst- und Kultur Festival in Berlin in 2011. Photo Credit: Marco Canevacci / Simone Serlenga

A gold ring wrapped itself around a building for the Kunst- und Kultur Festival in Berlin in 2011. Photo Credit: Marco Canevacci / Simone Serlenga

What would be your dream project?

MC: To make a science fiction movie with Quentin Tarantino! That's a good brief isn't it? I love his movies, because they're quite ironic and this is my approach. When there is a performance on a stage or in one of our structures, the public can see everything, but with a camera you choose what people look at.

Folke Köbberling and Martin Kaltwasser

One-off installations can initially seem like a waste of resources and the consideration of what's going to happen to the materials afterwards all too often an afterthought. Folke Köbberling and Martin Kaltwasser are an artist and architect duo based in Berlin, who have been working together since the late 1990s. They use discarded materials and found objects to create projects in public spaces that question issues such as our pressure to consume, growing surveillance and the ever-increasing motor traffic that is threatening to change the appearance of our cities.

The Jellyfish Theatre was a temporary auditorium installed in a school playground in Southwark for the Oikos Theatre Festival in 2010. Photo Credit: Köbberling / Kaltwasser

The Jellyfish Theatre was a temporary auditorium installed in a school playground in Southwark for the Oikos Theatre Festival in 2010. Photo Credit: Köbberling / Kaltwasser

How did you start working together?

Folke Köbberling: In 2002, a long time ago now, we were asked to do a lecture and an exhibition on the informal housing in Istanbul. We became really familiar with their construction techniques and the law there that you can build a house overnight. In Turkish it is called 'gecekondu' (from gece meaning 'night' and kondu meaning 'house'). In the end, we thought we would like to take this experience back to Berlin and see what the reaction would be like. In the end, we built a house overnight, with all its difficulties of lack of light and power. We use almost always scrap materials, even for our own homes -- you just use what you can get in the street.

How easy is it to get hold of discarded materials for your temporary projects?

FK: We really became experts in finding materials. If you think about fairs and biennales, you already know there will be millions of booths, where people come, build something, and end up with 90 per cent of the materials in the trash. We really try to make the logistics transparent. We tried to make an internet platform where the leftover materials from installations and fairs could be made available, free, for everybody.

The theatre was formed out of discarded theatre sets and timber pallets sourced from New Covent Garden Market. Photo Credit: Köbberling / Kaltwasser

Let's talk about the Jellyfish Theatre in Southwark, London, produced for the London Festival of Architecture 2010. How did that project come about?

Martin Kaltwasser: The Jellyfish Theatre became the first theatre building in London to be completely built from scrap material. The theatre was built by more than 100 volunteers. The use of found and recycled materials, using hand tools, the minimal budget, and endless fun with building, joking and creating -- all in the neighbourhood of one of the world's biggest financial centres -- was a totally outstanding experience. It was incredible because it was built in Southwark while The Shard was under construction. The bankers and businessmen passed by our Stone Age construction site and they could feel and smell that we were the nicest, best, most enthusiastic and funniest construction site in the whole of London!

The Jellyfish Theatre was mostly made out of pallets from the New Covent Garden Market and old theatre sets. It's our experience that as soon as we start a construction, we communicate with passers-by and then it snowballs. After a short time everybody knows we need materials and sometimes we are literally flooded with free building materials.

More than 100 volunteers built the theatre using limited plans and no model of how was meant to look. Photo Credit: Köbberling / Kaltwasser
More than 100 volunteers built the theatre using limited plans and no model of how it was meant to look. Photo Credit: Köbberling / Kaltwasser

Why do temporary structures appeal to you?

FK: The thing with temporary structures is that you can experiment more. We always go with the material. We never create models because we don't know what the thing will look like. You can shape it a little, but you never know how a facade will look until you're there. The Jellyfish Theatre was supposed to look totally different; some things didn't work or they weren't allowed, or you suddenly find a different material. You never know how it's going to turn out until the end.

Do you see these temporary structures as art, installation or architecture, or something in between?

FK: Maybe you don't have to see it as art or architecture; maybe it's an effort to create something that you would like to have in a city, maybe you don't need this big planning permission. In Germany, we have this word 'Möglichkeitssinn' that means the sense of possibilities or opportunities -- that something is possible, but you would never have thought it. For example, with the Jellyfish Theatre, it was just, 'Wow, here is a structure for £5,000, standing right in front of the Renzo Piano building that costs billions.'

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