Defending the pop-up

Pop-up architecture gets a fair bit of bad press. I agree with a lot of why it is bad but I believe it has its advantages. I am a big fan of a certain type of pop-up and that is a collaborative one serving a public purpose.

The point that I agree with about this type of architecture is that the designers who create these sort-term buildings and structures can better spend their time making permanent and larger buildings. And can get paid more (or actually get paid in some cases).

The angle I see this from is that of a young, inexperienced designer, still in education and wanting to learn new skills and techniques. This would be done with like-minded people and with the help of enthusiastic, approachable and sociable professionals. I’m not saying education doesn’t satisfy this criteria but there should be a system in place outside of university for those wanting extra in the big nasty world.

This article from Vice by Eddie Blake highlights the prevalence of the old guard in architecture. Their monopoly of the profession shuts out the younger (and more dynamic and progressive) architects from bigger jobs.

What I would like to see is more chances for young architects and designers to be able to get their name out there and seen by developers and prospective clients. I also want more collaboration and involvement of students and apprentices. There are precedents for young people doing fantastic things, like Practice Architecture who designed Frank’s Café in Peckham and Studio Weave‘s Studio in the Woods. These design and build projects teach people great new skills, create new friendships and interactions and (hopefully) attract media interest.

Photo: Andy Matthews and Jim Stephenson
Photo: Andy Matthews and Jim Stephenson

Councils and developers should look to these people for their youthful tenacity and verve, their willingness to try new things and their drive for experimentation and progression. I can be accused of naivety in an industry dominated by people who know how it works but when most people want it to change but don’t have the time, or energy, to change it, it falls to the new generation to speak up. I’ve spoken to numerous people who would actively ward people off the profession, saying it’s not worth the time and it’s too late for them but I can still get out. Support for young people from the architectural authorities and organisations will help change views and opinions and also create opportunities.

More competitions targeted at students and recently qualified architects will let the world see what great new talent there is. A Pecha Kucha style selection process for jobs and architects selecting students and young designers to work with (or other way round) will demonstrate the vibrant and fluid nature of new practice.

I know this won’t work for larger projects and it may not be the answer to the problem but I see it as a way of helping people get their foot in the door and also try to exact change.

Photo: Studio in the Woods, Andy Matthews and Jim Stephenson

Defending the pop-up