Arch. Myriam B. Mahiques Curriculum Vitae

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

About pop up populism

Downtown Huntington Beach, 4th of July. One of the tents at the rear. Personal archives

Downtown Huntington Beach, 4th of July. The beach with the temporary bathrooms. Personal archives

I´ve been today in the 4th of July Parade in H Beach, and it feels like a new instant city is born for one day. The beach, Main street, full of tents, kiosks, plus the public bathrooms..... It seems there´s a new name for it, if this ¨architecture¨ is more permanent: ¨pop up populism.¨ Here, I´m sharing an article by Kelly Chang on the subject: 

Dekalb Market. NYC. Picture by Sameer

 America is fast becoming a pop-up nation. From sea to shining sea, her cities have been swept up in the frenzy for temporary architecture: Brooklyn vendors sell their wares in artfully arranged shipping containers; Dallas's Build a Better Block group champions DIY painted bicycle routes and pop-up small businesses; architects in San Francisco are repurposing metered parking spaces into miniature parks; residents in Oakland, California rallied to create an entire pop-up neighborhood. The phenomenon has even climbed its way from grassroots origins to the agendas of local authorities: D.C.'s office of planning sprouted a Temporary Urbanism Initiative, while New York’s transportation commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan is implementing what she calls "Jane Jacobs’s revenge on Robert Moses" with her fast-acting interventions favoring pedestrians and cyclists. The temporary, so it seems, is overtaking the permanent. But how permanent is our current fascination for the temporary? There is a natural tension within the term "temporary architecture" that makes the notion seem vaguely unstable. To understand the significance of this fact, it helps to go back to the lessons of Vitruvius. The prolific architect and scribe of antiquity imparted three principal virtues, among other things, unto the Western architects that would fall under his influence: utilitas, firmitas, and venustas. The meaning of these terms is subject to much debate, but semantics aside, Vitruvius's virtues roughly translate to "utility," "durability," and "beauty." With these virtues firmly in place, Vitruvius equated the Roman empire's commanding marble cities with built perfection. The monuments that he extolled in the 1st century BC are an unmistakable tribute to the import of permanence. But for centuries now, this association of great architecture with fixed and timeless permanence, along with the entire Vitruvian triad, has been losing traction. Our environment has been built, altered, and rebuilt in overlapping waves. While some buildings stand the test of time, most seem to expire in relevance. Grand architectural and planning schemes are increasingly rare. In fact, we fast-forward to today, and it seems that we are collectively swinging towards a polar opposite of Vitruvian values. We are moving towards an architecture in which the permanent is becoming a lot less permanent.

Pictures and excerpt from

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