Bookreview: The Temporary City

a handbook for temporary urban planning

The focus on the temporary dimensions of the city is one of the main trends in planning and urbanism over the last five years. Used to be an urban art affair, the pop-up hype seems to get adopted in formal planning circuits. Now a book covers the recent years of temporary urban initiatives.

Temporary urbanism is hot! Especially now the ruins of the financial crisis become visible in most European cities, with little or no money for new development projects. This leads to wastelands in the urban fabric and plenty of vacant buildings. Temporary use seems to be a profound solution.


A book that cover it all

Recently I received a great book called The Temporary City, written by Peter Bishop and Lesley 

Williams. The book chose the right moment to be launched as planning the interim city becomes serious business. “The Temporary City is a great overview of, say, ten years of temporary urban initiatives and development efforts. Showcasing a rich variety of good practices, the book describes what has happened over the last years in planning and urbanism when the pop-up trend became more relevant.”

Main question in the book, that both focuses on theory and practical projects, is why planning has always been so intrigued by permanence and whether that could be changed by developing alternative strategies:


Where are the long term solutions?

“There has been relatively little analysis of the importance of interim, short-term or ‘meanwhile’ activities in urban areas. In an era of increasing pressure on scarce resources, we cannot wait for long-term solutions to vacancy or dereliction. Instead, we need to view temporary uses as increasingly legitimate and important in their own right. They can be a powerful tool through which we can drip-feed initiatives for incremental change — as and when we have the resources — while being guided by a loose-fit vision.”


Impermanent concepts for urbanists

The Temporary City is a new handbook for temporary planning. It’s a publication that should be good education material at the planning academy as it tries to let aspirant planners and urbanists understand the importance of thinking in impermanent concepts. It brings up inspiration and features international benchmarks.

The main conclusion of the book is that temporary planning should neither be a different process from permanent planning, nor it be the process before the real planning starts. Instead, it should be an integral part of an urban development. Both permanent and temporary planning should merge into a new adaptive planning strategy. An interesting thought.

But would temporary planning work when it gets adapted by the official planning world? Will these kinds of strategies work when they are unleashed top-down instead of bottom-up? And what will it mean for the image of temporary urbanism? Pop-up initiatives seem to be sexy: they celebrate urban imperfectness, are spontaneous and generate enthusiasm. What will be left of that when it all becomes serious business?


The Temporary City
Peter Bishop and Lesley Williams
Published by Routledge
248 pages
ISBN: 978-0-415-67056-2 (paperback), 978-0-415-67055-5 (hardback)

Tue, 13.03.2012 0

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