‘It is better to live in a state of impermanence than in one of finality’ 1
Cities are constantly evolving and transforming. The phenomenon of the temporary space is creating a new layer of excitement and spontaneity within the fabric of the city. Through the simple revamp of a vacant shopfront to the transformation of an unused street, the ephemeral nature of these actions have the ability to rejuvenate the disused corners of urban life. The neglected architecture and abandoned spaces of Ireland’s town and cities provides an ideal opportunity in which temporary design can be used to improve the urban landscape. Often they can act as a creative and organic way to breathe life back into the inner city both physically and psychologically.
Festivals, installations and production design are intrinsic elements of temporary architecture. They are the catalysts which allow ephemeral possibilities to become a reality. They can convert architecture into an intricate tapestry of momentary experience and regurgitave memory. Such power lies in the ability to be physically present one minute and gone the next, yet leaving a lasting impression on a deeper level. These events are not designed for longevity, but to offer the public a brief moment in time in which a version of their city in unveiled. A festival for example may be a short-lived event but can remain in the consciousness of the public long after it has ended.
New Street Gardens in Waterford City is an example of what can be created when one thinks ‘temporary’. What began as a single row of domestic houses which lay abandoned and in ruin for many years in the city centre, became a vibrant and flexible garden for all to enjoy last summer. It boasts an array of themed gardens and tranquil spaces as well as a large stage area. The gardens be can easily transformed into an alternative outdoor venue for live music, open air cinema, exhibitions and for many of the major festivals that Waterford has to offer. The garden was established by the people of Waterford themselves on a voluntary basis, with many local businesses providing support. This creative evolution shows how a previously mundane eyesore actually had the hidden potential to become an exciting and inspiring part of Waterford City. Originally the garden was intended to be maintained only for the summer season but it’s legacy will live on for some time yet. In the future the garden may well be adapted and transformed again into something different entirely.
The fluid, ever changing nature of ephemeral architecture allows it to be a prospective solution to urban stagnation in many different settings. What might be imagined if our architecture had a greater focus on layers of permanence and temporality that were equally dependent on each other? Could these spaces stimulate stagnant urban realms for a short period while also enacting a more long-lasting legacy? Perhaps if implemented on a larger scale they could resolve problem areas. Even with smaller projects like New Street Gardens, their achievements could continue to spread and develop in other locations – replicated in order to promote similarly successful outcomes. As urban planner Kevin Lynch wrote in the 1970s, ‘There is an excitement in impermanence’ 2 and it may only be now, that we’re beginning to see this possiblity take hold.
1 Bachelard, G (1994) The Poetics of Space, Beacon Press, Massachusetts
2 Lynch, K (1972) What Time is this Place?, The MIT Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts