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Temporary Public Spaces: A Technological Paradigm


Contemporary cities no longer offer the same types of permanent environments that we planned for in the latter part of the twentieth century. Our public spaces are increasingly temporary, transient, and ephemeral. The theories, principles and tactics with which we designed these spaces in the past are no longer appropriate. We need a new theory for understanding the creation, use, and reuse of temporary public space. More than a theory, we need new architectural tactics or strategies that can be reliably employed to create successful temporary public spaces.
This paper will present ongoing research that starts that process through critical review and technical analysis of existing and historic temporary public spaces. Through the analysis of a number of public spaces, that were either designed for temporary use or became temporary through changing social conditions, this research identifies the tactics and heuristics used in such projects. These tactics and heuristics are then analysed to extract some broader principles for the design of temporary public space. The theories of time related building layers, a model of environmental sustainability, and the recycling of social meaning, are all explored.
The paper will go on to identify a number of key questions that need to be explored and addressed by a theory for such developments: How can we retain social meaning in the fabric of the city and its public spaces while we disassemble it and recycle it into new purposes? What role will preservation have in the rapidly changing future; will exemplary temporary spaces be preserved and thereby become no longer temporary? Does the environmental advantage of recycling materials, components and spaces outweigh the removal or social loss of temporary public space? This research starts to identify the knowledge gaps and proposes a number of strategies for making public space in the age of temporary, recyclable, and repurposing of our urban infrastructure; a way of creating lighter, cheaper, quicker, and temporary interventions.

Pages:63 to 74
Section: Space
How to Cite
Crowther, P. (2016) “Temporary Public Spaces: A Technological Paradigm”, The Journal of Public Space, 1(1), pp. 63-74. doi:

Author Biography

Queensland University of Technology
Australia Australia
Associate Professor Philip Crowther is Head of Architecture in the School of Design at Queensland University of Technology. Philip’s research focuses on design for disassembly in an architectural context. He has studied the life cycle of buildings and the sustainable reuse of building materials. Through his research, Philip developed principles of Design for Disassembly (DfD) and theoretical models for environmentally sustainable construction. Philip is also researching in design education and the development of creativity. He is interested in the ways that creativity can be fostered and assessed within a university teaching environment. He is currently involved in a longitudinal study examining the predictors of academic success amongst 300 architecture and design students. Philip is a member of the ‘Art, Design and Creative Education’ Tier 4 research group at QUT.


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