Where do we situate the building of structures created to be disassembled? Architecture, in its broadest sense, is concerned with uprooting permanent structures that cement themselves within the broader cultural context and history of its humanity. Knowing that these structures were never intended to last but were created to occupy space temporarily, how much significance and value can they contain?

“Beauty perishes in life, but is immortal in art” – Leonardo da Vinci.

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A pavilion in Mexico_@Marisa Morán

Temporary structures are intentionally short-lived buildings, displays, and initiatives that develop test environments for engagement and interaction. They can be anything from a tiny mobile theatre and a floating movie theatre to a community lido on an old railroad track or a haphazard theatre constructed entirely from scrap. Many involve grassroots forums for collaborative, participatory design and self-initiated DIY construction. They frequently question the style of a previous permanent building and are inventive and adventurous. They are always intended for public use, and activities include the general public in their creation and execution. Urban public places have seen an increase in the appearance and disappearance of temporary construction. Such buildings are frequently called “pop-ups,” amusing follies meant to be photographed. But, a long history of holistic impermanent architecture hints at more peaceful ways to work, play, and live.

Temporary architecture has existed since the beginning of time in some form or another, from prehistoric wooden huts and shelters to medieval stage sets, circuses, and world fairs, to the mobile home and post-war prefabs, as well as war and disaster relief. We are more familiar with temporary exhibits and pavilions in contemporary architecture, such as Mies van der Rohe’s Barcelona Pavilion from 1929 or Alison and Peter Smithson’s House of the Future for the Daily Mail Ideal Home Exhibition in London from 1956. These prototypes for modern living revealed the provocative ideas of their designers about the future of architecture and urbanism. Also, they were about turning architectural shapes into strong, lasting visuals, a type of advertising.

These pavilions’ thoughts and ideas for reimagining society share many similarities with the temporary buildings being constructed right now. They focus on creating different, plausible universes that are neither totally genuine nor entirely made up. Yet, there are also some differences between the structures appearing now and those in the book: neither are they prototypes that should be duplicated on a larger scale, nor are they prescribing or demanding specific ways to live in the future. Instead, it is a distinctive (perhaps odd) rule-breaking structure that serves as a platform for exploring thoughts and ideas. Rather than the physical object itself, these thoughts and opinions are frequently regarded as having the most influence. As The Decorators’ initiative for Chrisp Street Market demonstrates, these projects can catalyze subtler and more extensive consequences. This plan, which included creating a “Town Team” to meet frequently and making more noticeable modifications like purchasing new market furniture, has since served as a model for two other neglected London markets needing revitalization.

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Sava installation_@Marko Mihaljević

Temporary building structures can be broadly categorized into the following categories:

Based on the design process: intentional temporality, unexpected temporality, based on the function and program: practical intent, intent to alter the environment, intent to sell and market, structures connected to celebrations, depending on location in the urban fabric: cultural landscape, close to a potent natural element, public space, close to an important institution.

Traditional Marquees | Temporary structures

Conventional marquees are constructed in parts, making them lighter to transport and more straightforward to set up. The entryway can be positioned in any location thanks to walling sections. The only purpose for a marquee is as a roof shelter. The walls are independent and can be connected and disconnected as needed. If the instructions are followed, erecting a marquee is relatively straightforward; however, knowledge is necessary due to the weight of the canvas. They span 120 feet wide and are typically used in traditional settings and private gatherings.

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Frieze Art Fair_@Iwan Baan

Giant Structure

Generally defined as large span aluminum frame or tensioned pole tents more than 25m wide. These are considered specialist structures. These can be 30m, 40, or 50m span frame tents, usually needing the aid of telescopic plants or cranes to erect and dismantle. Giant pole tents can usually be erected manually, thus differentiating them from big tops that require plants.

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Institut du Monde Arabe_@IMA

Inflatable Tents | Temporary structures

These are Air-supported structures and Use air beams, tubular construction, or cellular walls

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Saddles pan

They are constructed from tensioned PVC and supported by trusses made of architectural aluminum. Because of their availability in various colors and ability to be connected to substantial structures, these are typically used for huge marquees, exposition venues, audience shelters, and stage covers.

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Sudpack_@Opera GmbH

Multi-deck | Temporary structures

These specialized structures can be double, triple, or quad-level but Have standard clean-span aluminum frame designs.

Biobasecamp_@Ronald Tilleman

The application of temporary, flexible, or mobile elements in the urban tissue is now included in the design process for city development, cultural institutions, and public spaces. So, modern cities should focus on more than just planned, static locations; public space should accommodate the city’s ad hoc, unplanned needs. The leading indicators of the structures’ permanence are the sustainability of society’s active engagement in the public realm, novel uses of the public domain, or the promotion of modern art and architecture. Temporary buildings and ideas open up new options, test various hypotheses, and offer fresh perspectives on designing cities, how people should perceive and use spaces, and how places should look. Such ephemeral architecture’s use and use determine its value, making it a respectable city draw.

“Architecture should speak of its time and place, but yearn for timelessness.”

– Frank Gehry


  • This is Temporary: Transient Architecture, DesignCurial. Available at: https://www.designcurial.com/news/this-is-temporary-transient-architecture-4802906/#:~:text=Temporary%20architecture%20in%20the%20context,sites%20for%20interaction%20and%20engagement.  [Accessed March 2, 2023].
  • The phenomenon of temporary architecture – its background and potential, ALFA. Available at: https://alfa.stuba.sk/the-phenomenon-of-temporary-architecture-its-background-and-potential/   [Accessed March 2, 2023].
  • Built to Disappear: 7 Temporary Pavilions Made of Recycled Materials, Architizer.  Available at: https://architizer.com/blog/inspiration/collections/built-to-disappear/   [Accessed March 2, 2023].
  • 5 Types Of Temporary Architecture: Material, Construction, And Uses, Where is the North. Available at: https://whereisthenorth.com/5-types-of-temporary-architecture-material-construction-and-uses/#:~:text=These%20temporary%20structures%20can%20be,%2C%20in%20Hyde%20Park%2C%20London.   [Accessed March 2, 2023].

Currently in her 4th year of Architecture at IIT Roorkee, Avantika believes that architecture is a tool for meeting people’s aspirations and providing them with better experiences. When coupled with design thinking, architecture and research have the potential to enrich our societies and have a constructive impact. Creating socially, culturally, and environmentally sustainable spaces is what architecture means to her. Her experience as an architecture student has shifted her world view and taught her to be more observant and empathetic.