Is Pop-Up Architecture a Strategy for Resilient Design?

Nightime view of Collective Retreats Governors Island


The Pop-Up Architecture phenomena is expanding.  Temporary shops, swimming pools, recreation parks, stages and pavilions are trending. Temporary hotels and housing may be next. The appeal of impermanent structures is that they can morph and change with the social and environmental climate. Swimming pools can turn into ice rinks and summer outdoor dining into winter retail. They provide a unique laboratory to experiment with design. Marni Epstein of Curbed magazine says: “..pop-up, temporary, and mobile architecture have often sat well outside the boundaries of mainstream architecture, pushing the edge of progressive design. Architectural ideas that as a practical matter couldn’t be built as permanent structures are possible as temporary structures.”

On Governor’s island, Collective Retreats retained Lynn Fritzlen Architect to design a seaside seasonal retreat that caters to those who enjoy the location and fresh air. Guests stay in tents supported by platforms and services are provided from mobile trailers. In the winter, when the site is more susceptible to storms the retreat is decommissioned.  Tent membranes and mobile units are removed and plumbing and electrical are disconnected. Platforms remain, which are designed to withstand flooding,  All this adds up to a resilient and adaptable design.

New York City, like other coastal locations, is facing rising sea levels and intensified storms. Fortified sea walls, waterproofed basements and buildings lifted above the predicted flood levels are increasingly the norm, but not necessarily the most site sensitive solutions.

Temporary structures are an environmentally friendly alternative to permanently holding back the sea with structure.  They are easily constructed and de-constructed, leave a light touch on the land, minimize excavation, decrease site disturbance and can be relocated as site conditions change ie Design Flood Elevations increase.

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