In cities across Northwest Europe, the practice of assigning temporary uses to vacant spaces is increasing and becoming institutionalized, often as the first stage of a regeneration. At a time of growing land pressure, these practices, squeezed into the cracks of lengthy urban projects, can appear quite seductive and a good example of the makeshift and resilient cities that many urban planners are calling for. This article shows that the creative or artistic dimension often displayed by temporary urban projects can nonetheless be used to cast new light on the areas in which they are implemented, thus increasing their visibility and attraction to new investors. As such, temporary urbanism is as an active factor in the regeneration process, and not just an interstitial and neutral form of urbanism. To check this hypothesis, this piece of research draws on qualitative data from the case study of Balfron Tower, an iconic brutalist council estate in East London that was the epicentre for many ephemeral projects and occupants between 2011 and 2016, when it was refurbished into luxury private flats. It shows how these forms of temporary housing have contributed to a larger urban renewal strategy, which may turn out to come at the expense of the local population and the temporary occupants themselves. This article therefore argues for the spatial, temporal and socio-political recontextualisation of temporary urban projects, to question their alternative character and their extended role in the future city-making.
- temporary urbanism
- interstitial urbanism
- makeshift city
- property guardianship
- conversion of offices into homes