Thoughts: On temporary building use and ecology.

Cities are dynamic and complex places however over the last decade there has been an increasing emphasis on maximising use of space.  Temporary use and ‘access’ based business models use have become far more attractive and offer much greater flexibility than ownership.  Cities are full of interstitial spaces however it is rare that these spaces are ‘curated’ into an ecology of temporary uses.

Temporary + price

For urban planners, architects and city officials the general response to empty buildings and warehouse is to offer theme to creative industry such as “artists studios”.    Cheap and temporarily available space certainly attracts the likes of artists and creatives that want to be near a cultural centre yet are limited by budgets and for this are willing to accept moving at a moment’s notice.  Temporary should not just be dedicated to creative types but also to the industrious and the brave. Temporary is particularly about testing things, it is about taking risks.  For new urban industry (see an early post on the topic here) temporary and low-cost inner-city real estate can offer the panacea to remove up-front investment costs and allow people to take more calculated risks.

Temporary + ecology

Cheap space is only one variable though.  New start-ups also need clients and a critical mass of complimentary skilled labour to help them out, and a market place, and a little entertainment…and certainly people to visit.  This is precisely the point – if temporary is good, it should not be simply left to nature to take over.  Temporary also needs some kind of curatorial dimension to ensure that there are compatible and supportive functions that form a kind of building scale ecosystem.

FullSizeRender
A great example is the new Fenix Food Factory in Rotterdam (see photo left*).  While focused around food, the building offers a space for established businesses to sell their products (such as Jordy’s Bakery) and also smaller venues to test their business model (such as the micro-brewery, the bookshop or cheese stand).  This mix ensures that there is a certain level of certainty and flexibility.

Keeping the love alive

Another challenge for innovation based precincts is to keep the creative and vibrant energy flowing and create conditions for exchange, co-creation and co-dependence.  A strong criticism against ‘innovation incubators’ and ‘creative hubs’ is that often they will host creative people however they may never do anything together.  Sure, people in a building may share a coffee bar on the ground floor, however this does not mean that it will lead to creative pursuits.  We consider this to be a major shortfall of agglomerating skills and knowledge in one spot.  So what can be done to keep people engaged and collaborating?