Short-Term Architecture Makes for a Long-Term Trend

Short-Term Architecture Makes for a Long-Term Trend

In the wake of a housing bust, portable and pop-up structures are filling voids

Janet Burns
  • 8 august 2014

From Burning Man structures to one-day-only cupcake shops, city dwellers are exploring the possibilities of here today, gone tomorrow architecture. With rising property prices and the need for mobility driving urbanites’ spending, the design and architectural communities are lately working to provide two popular and sustainable solutions: pop-up and portable spaces.


The Brooklyn Bridge Pop-Up Pool is about to wrap up its third summer of a planned five on the East River, and has been a popular amenity for tourists and locals alike. Developed by architectural firms Davis Brody Bond and Spacesmith, the short-term installation was designed to have minimal costs and impact on the site, and to take advantage of the area’s existing features; “to that end,” Spacesmith explains, “foundations and slabs from previously demolished buildings were incorporated into the design and the pool and beach area were raised to avoid any excavation.” The pool and its sandy, umbrella-shaded beach area are blocked off from the hubbub of the nearby Brooklyn-Queens Expressway by bright red, yellow, and blue shipping containers, which house showers, restrooms, and snack vendors. The containers conjure an image of the location’s busier port days, and may well, as Inhabitat suspects, have been recycled from the park’s recently-ended Photoville shipping container village.


The desire to harness the practical aesthetic and durable steel construction of shipping containers extends far beyond the park’s pool project. The trend of Cargotecture, reaching perhaps its greatest scale to date with Manhattan’s planned $200-million, high-end serving SuperPier, has attracted businesses large and small on a global scale. The Sugoroku Office in Gifu, Japan, pictured above, has provided a temporary residence to Daiken-Met Architects during the region’s housing crunch. As the firm tells Inhabitat, “[i]n the local city, we are facing various problems such as decreasing population, increasing vacant land, on the other hand it is difficult to make a rental contract for small buildings.”

moma dunescape.jpg

Committed to exploring this need to fill physical niches with adaptable structures, the MoMA PS1 Young Architects Program (YAP) celebrates the efforts of up-and-coming architects and designers who address the limitations of cost and space. Established in 2000, the program realizes one project each summer, chosen by deans of architecture schools, according to a tight budget and involving the architects in every stage of the structure’s development. As the collaborators explain,

The objective of the project is to provide visitors with an outdoor recreational area for the summer-a much-needed refuge in an urban environment-making the best use of the pre-existing space and available materials. The site, MoMA PS1’s large triangular entrance courtyard and outdoor sculpture area, is an integral part of the museum’s popular music concert series, Warm Up, which features experimental music, live bands, and DJs.

moma liquid sky.jpg

For those folks for whom a year lease is too long and finding wide, open spaces is not a problem, a wave of comfortable (if currently high-end) portable spaces offers attractive options. Inflatable, climate-controlled structures like CasaBubble allow inhabitants to combine home with the outdoors, and reject the idea of ‘roughing it’ in nature.

casabubble 4.jpg

A recent exhibit by Omaha-based KANEKO explored further options for towing or driving your home around with you. Pictured below, a drawing by SoCal architect Mark Mack imagines a compact trailer containing enough technology and comforts to sustain and entertain city-slickers for weeks at a time, or as far as the road takes them.

nomad2 mm.jpg

With the trends of pop-up and portable architecture reaching full swing, the choices for city-bound groups low on funding and space (and folks looking to escape cramped cities for a while) should continue to multiply.

Images: Inhabitat, MoMA PS1, Elisabeth Montangier, PopUp-House, Daiken-Met Architects, BluHomes, CasaBubble, Tom Kessler, Mark Mack


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