This follows the earlier post on this set of essays, which also features 'The Commodification of Everything' for 'SQM' and 'Urban Parasites, Data-Driven Urbanism, and the Case for Architecture' for A+U. This one was first published as:
- 'A Sketchbook for the City to Come: The Pop-Up as R&D' in 'Architectural Design Special Issue: Pavilions, Pop-Ups and Parasols: The Impact of Real and Virtual Meeting on Physical Space', Guest Editors Leon van Schaik and Fleur Watson, May/June 2015, Volume 85, Issue 3
It was an honour either way. But it was particularly an honour to be asked to contribute a piece to Architectural Design journal (known as ‘AD’ in the trade) as I was proposed by guest editor Leon Van Schaik. Leon is professor in architecture at RMIT University in Melbourne (where I’m an adjunct prof.) and a huge influence on architects and architecture in Australia, and well beyond. Leon has, for a couple of decades, shaped the evolution of the city of Melbourne itself, via his design, curation, and stewardship of the university’s buildings programme, which he's strategically used as a lever to also enable a generation of brilliant Melbourne architects to emerge, each given the chance to work on significant institutional buildings through that innovative procurement strategy (there are a couple of books about that.)
So although I was asked to write about ‘pop-ups’, which I was not particularly inclined to do, the fact I was asked by Leon meant I had to. I was no fan of ‘pop-ups’ per se—for similar reasons as others—yet I felt I could reinterpret the brief a bit. But it also meant I probably had to write about Ravintolapäivä again, which again, I wasn't particularly inclined to do, having written quite enough about that already (one, two, three.)
Writing the article did get me into interesting new territory though—the idea of ‘fast and slow urbanism’ (which I’d also developed for a talk at an event in Copenhagen about the future of Nordic urban planning.) I ended up writing about the value of buildings as ‘slow urbanism’, as the opposite of popups’ ‘fast urbanism’, with the value of the latter being a kind of sketchbook for the city, revealing latent desires. I saw the possibility of the strategic designer in drawing a link from one to the other. Unpacking this further, as I have done recently, it becomes a way of thinking about governance, and design and planning strategy, in the city, suggesting value in both fast and slow layers of change (fast being things like software and much tech, events, temporary structures and spaces and slow being things like buildings, hard infrastructure and some institutional layers.) Both have value; you just have to be aware of both, of how to handle both, and to know what mode you're in when doing so.
I used the work that Bryan Boyer and I led, with our colleagues in Helsinki—‘learning from Ravintolapaiva’, and then our Open Kitchen project—as a case study. Huge credit to my colleague Bryan there, and others at in the Strategic Design Unit at SITRA (Marco Steinberg, Justin Cook, Kalle Freese and Maija Oksanen), as well as our culinary collaborators Antto Melasniemi and Elina Forss, and our highly supportive partner at City of Helsinki, Ville Relander, who was their food culture project manager at the time. (And now doing other great things in Helsinki, as I discovered over breakfast at The Cock the other day.)
Here’s the original edit of the piece below, A variant on this edit was published in Architectural Design Special Issue: Pavilions, Pop-Ups and Parasols: The Impact of Real and Virtual Meeting on Physical Space'. Do pick up and read this issue of AD as there are some other fantastic articles in there, some of which help reclaim the language of ‘pop-up’ from some fairly terrible dead-ends. Read on.