Situating temporary public urban settings in design critique
Keywords:critique, criticism, temporary urban public space, site understanding, narratives, placemaking, performativity
Public spaces emerge through a diverse field of practices and events that combine to make space and create meaning. In today’s design and planning practice, temporary interventions play an increasing role in the creation and rethinking of public space ‘on the go’. In such transitional interventions, ‘the project’ is both physically and symbolically created through entangled actions of design with somewhat non-designed and informal practices and DIY aesthetics, as well as various narratives and modes of communication.Temporary public spaces thereby challenge established ways of evaluating and critiquing spatial settings as determined design solutions or ‘classic’ architectural works—in terms of what they do and how they can be qualitatively understood as part of contemporary place-making approaches. This article forms a critique of the project Valby Pavilion, a temporary space in Valby (Copenhagen, Denmark) that serves as a test setup for the future use of its highly contested site. Through a juxtaposition of selected theoretical perspectives from art and architectural criticism to relational site thinking and performance studies, the discussion of the project elaborates upon which aspects require detailed attention when performing a critique of temporary urban public spaces. The article concludes that critical examination of a number of issues (intentionality and origin, the role of spatial adaptions, appropriation, events and situated public debate, dominant planning paradigms, and the characteristic aesthetics of the informal) helps to fruitfully locate public settings initiated under the ‘temporary project’ label within design and architectural critique.