How Pop-Up Culture Can Engage Citizens In Unique And Exciting Ways [My Ideal City]

How Pop-Up Culture Can Engage Citizens In Unique And Exciting Ways [My Ideal City]

PSFK chats with design collective OH.NO.SUMO about the impact of pop-up projects on urban environments.

  • 12 may 2013

As part of our series looking at the future of cities, PSFK reached out to experts to get their take on key trends we’ve identified that are currently affecting urban environments. The design collective OH.NO.SUMO recently developed the pop-up project Stairway Cinema, a mobile movie theater created for urban environments that converts an ordinary building stoops into a pop up cinema. OH.NO.SUMO spoke with to give an in-depth description of the project and explain the impact of pop-up projects such as the Stairway Cinema on urban environments:

What do you see as the goal of the project?

Our ongoing goal is to experiment with architecture and the way it can engage with the public in unique and exciting ways. This project takes inspiration from the site and its inhabitants. The site is the busy pedestrian intersection of two inner city streets in Auckland, New Zealand. It is located between two universities and is a place of ‘unconsidered waiting’. Bus stops and laundromats  create a dispersed hard-scape that results in numerous instances of poor quality waiting, while simultaneously failing to provide quality space for social interaction. Members of the public retreat individually into the media offered on their mobile phones. This in turn results in greater separation and dislocation from an existing community that is waiting to be activated. A community must be linked not only virtually but also physically.

Why is linking virtual and physical communities so important?

Stairway Cinema offers a very simple programmatic response to recognise and counter this larger issue. Short movies, previously shared online, are projected for the public to enjoy, offering similar media to that sought out on their phones. The individual experience is exchanged for the communal and social, leading to a shared, fun and architecturally activated experience. Movies are collected from internet recommendations that have been shared by the public through social media. The public curate this virtual collection of media continuously and the cinema captures current trends and highlights within this realm. Stairway Cinema uses architecture as a way of engaging in a discussion about curatorial practice, opportunistic urbanism and the role of Architects as place-makers and provocateurs.

The structure is a slender timber truss frame constructed from 24x24mm pine members. Covering this frame is a triple skin system of fabric that provides a waterproof exterior, a dappled light effect and a soft tactile interior surface. Sited above an existing exterior stairway, the fabric and timber hood creates a new interior within the public realm; a space that is free to enter and welcomes all. The interior, softened with custom made cushions, offers a repurposed seating tier. Over the entrance video content is projected onto the screen at the cantilevered end of the structure.

What else can you tell us about the group?

At the core of the work undertaken by OH.NO.SUMO. is a desire to achieve architectural projects which offer an alternative mode of research. Hidden potentials of existing spaces are discovered through fun and accessible processes of design and fabrication which engage the public.

Stairway Cinema was part of St Paul St Gallery’s Curatorial Season 2012.The series of exhibitions invited select artists to examine approaches concerning contemporary curatorial practice.

Stairway Cinema is the third installation by OH.NO.SUMO.

Thanks OH.NO.SUMO!


Q. What cultural experience would you like to see pop up temporarily in your city?

Submit your answer now at the MyIdealCity site – or tweet your suggestion using #MyIdealCity and #Maximizedspace


Over the next 6 months, PSFK and a team of experts imaging the future of a city will be asking you what you envision as ‘My Ideal City’. Tweet us your ideas using the hashtag of the week and view all the submissions at the MyIdealCity site.

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