• Sunday , 17 November 2019

Ephemeral Artefacts

Temporary Architecture comes in many forms, from flexible built projects to the integration of architectural concepts within a wide variety of ancillary fields. Since the turn of the millennium, Irish architects have become especially adept at exploiting the possiblilties of this approach.

Presenting opportunities for younger architects to establish themselves through smaller and more versatile projects, temporal architecture finds room to be enriched by the particularities, necessities and brief of a project. This can broadly manifest itself from the facilitation of an immediate programme (e.g. Cora Dorca’s Cityscape theatre), a sustainable modification of condition (e.g. Niall McLaughlin’s Bexhill bandstand), or even aspiring towards the exemplification of an ideology (e.g. Venice Biennale). Temporal architecture has the potential to be a concentrated form of urbanity, an ephemeral artefact, atypical to conventional forms of architectural process, and yet perhaps more socio-politically invigorating.

Attempting to design a short-term work in a long-term landscape typically requires the desire of institutional bodies for social, or political, change. In such circumstances, a seemingly fleeting form can concentrate abiding principles – hitting perhaps with the same punch and fervour of architectural manifestoes past.

Some examples of the contemporary temporary include Fearghus Ó Conchúir’s modern dance piece ‘Niche’, commissioned by Dublin City Council. This piece exemplified the fluctuating contours of urban life and how the human subject adapts and creates to enhance attachment to the embellished architectural ‘places’ it has perpetually inhabited. This form of architectural theory is not strictly designed for, but emanates from, the society in which we live and the vernacular we create, creating modern allegorical monuments.

Tom De Paor’s ‘N³’ for the Venice Biennale 2000, represented pure architectural form, yet was as materially fleeting as the exhibit necessitated. Stacked briquettes, held together with rebar, created a narrow passage through which one could barely squeeze, evoking memories of Ireland’s ancient tombs. The touch and scent of turf formed the crux of the piece, yet it spoke to the cyclical nature of our environment and the increasingly European vernacular with which we form our architecture.


Temporal architecture is fraught by its own configurational stability; while art and dance are customarily fleeting forms, temporal architecture requires the ability to specifically state its intrinsic transient value. This process can transpire over years, or just hours between tides, but eventually takes its toll on a piece’s relevance. While Darmody Architecture’s bandstand within Fitzgerald Park in Cork will facilitate, over decades, as a ‘catalyst for community engagement’,1 its contemporary ‘Sky Garden’ by Diarmuid Gavin underperforms without its dramatic elevation, purposed for exhibition but repurposed here unsympathetically.

Temporal Architecture tells a particular story, whether literal such as Corca Dorca’s theatrical occupation of the Cork cityscape for ‘Merchant of Venice’, or allegorical, such as De Siun Scullion Architects’ 5Cube in the Dublin docklands. 5Cube exemplifies the environmental stance required to reduce fossil fuel consumption, through the use of renewable energies to power it, and giving volume to the amount of oil consumed every 5 minutes in Ireland. This serves to highlight the best of temporary architecture, allegorically concise enough to hold its own moment, yet adaptable enough to be reimagined in separate spatial conditions. Its visual impact stands alone, but with discovery of the box one’s perception of the docklands is modified through the lens of a periscope, making change tangible.


Temporal work has the potential to provoke the best from architecture; connecting us with place and memory. It evokes, it enriches, it offers alternative experiences of care-worn spaces. Ephemeral and ethereal, these projects are architectural artefacts of modern life.

1 Aoife O’Mahony (Assistant Engineer with Cork City Council) cited in: Healy, Alan. ‘Fitzgerald’s Park Bandstand up for Major Architecture Award’. Evening Echo 2015. Web. 11 July 2015.


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