Pop-ups: overhyped and everywhere?

Saturday 19 October, 10.30am until 12.00pm, Free Stage Pop Ups

In recent years, there has been a distinct sense that something is missing from cities as lively urbanity is quashed by surveillance, petty rules and the dead hand of bureaucracy. One response has been the trend for temporary ‘pop-ups’, alongside other small scale social and artistic interventions. These days, from trendy Hackney to Heathrow airport, it seems no urban space is complete without short-let shops and restaurants, temporary cinemas or urban beaches.

Is it true that pop-ups and associated activities such as guerrilla gardening, free running, urban climbing and ‘place hacking’, are an imaginative way to reinvigorate the city as a social stage, or as one supporter argues, that pop-ups can be a persistent challenge to ‘regulated, privatised, and diminishing forms of public space’? Are playful, small scale interventions and urban explorations a challenge to the sanitised city, or merely part of it? To what extent do they provide a means to nurture the urban realm and engender community spirit? Some see pop-ups as a temporary solution during economic hard times, but as big retailers jump aboard, might it be the case that austerity chic is rather fashionable, less a challenge to the status quo than an indication that there is no alternative?

Cany Ash
partner, Ash Sakula Architects

Pedro Bismarck
architect; editor, Punkto magazine

Alastair Donald
associate director, Future Cities Project; architecture programme manager, British Council

Oliver Wainwright
architecture and design critic, the Guardian

Austin Williams
associate professor in architecture, XJTLU University, Suzhou, China; director, Future Cities Project; convenor, Bookshop Barnies; founding member of New Narratives

Produced by
Alastair Donald associate director, Future Cities Project; architecture programme manager, British Council
Recommended readings
Architects who improvise and innovate

A trend among young architects to take matters into their own hands

Edwin Heathcote, Financial Times, 23 August 2013

Pop-Up Populism

How the Temporary Architecture Craze is Changing Our Relationship to the Built Environment

Kelly Chan, Blouin Artinfo, 8 May 2012

The Rise of the Temporary City

While artists, activists and event organizers have embraced the pop-up phenomenon, urban visionaries have remained overwhelmingly concerned with permanence. That may be changing, according to The Temporary City, a new book by urban planner Peter Bishop and environmental scientist Lesley Williams.

David Lepeska, Atlantic, 1 May 2012

Why temporary architecture could be an enduring trend

Given that since the beginning of the Great Recession the construction business has slowed dramatically and that some of the most popular cultural–and inventive retail–projects have been pop-up shops and food trucks, letting go of past conceptions of architecture’s permanence might be the most enduring design phenomenon of the 2010s.

Reena Jana, Smart Planet, 21 December 2011

It’s Time to Rethink ‘Temporary’

For most of the first decade of the 2000s, architecture was about the statement building. Whether it was a controversial memorial or an impossibly luxurious condo tower, architecture’s raison d’être was to make a lasting impression. Architecture has always been synonymous with permanence, but should it be?

Allison Arieff, New York Times, 19 December 2011

Why pop-ups pop up everywhere

Temporary shops and restaurants were once a way for artists to subvert empty urban spaces. Now, they're just as likely to be part of a corporate marketing strategy

Kira Cochrane, Guardian, 12 October 2010

Session partners

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