Temporary Urbanism in Perth: What really can be done about it?

Much has been written about the rise of Temporary Urbanism in the 21st century. Temporary urbanism is, also widely known as post-modernism urbanism, pop-up urbanism, tactical urbanism, DIY urbanism and guerrilla urbanism, a movement solely instigated by individuals or groups and not endorsed by higher powers1. The shift from building on permanence to temporality appears to be indispensable today, forming the basis of temporary urbanism.


Well known for its temporality, temporary urbanism projects do not aspire to be permanent, but strive to create interventions that give temporary claims on the city, creating a transient built environment that brings vibrancy and diversity in obsolete places. Yet, even as these movements and initiatives has been one that has been successful, and had proven its ability to liven up a space that is once abandoned, little has been written or discussed about the aftermath of Pop-ups or temporary events.


“Yet in celebrating pop-ups as the solution to urban problems, are we simply distracting from the lack of structural public provision in these areas – and worse still, normalising, even glorifying, its absence through passionate avowals of temporariness?”2


What then comes after all the hype? After weeks of on-going art, music, dance and food events that had successfully brought “life” back into the once-obsolete areas of the city, there seem to me, a sudden drop of atmosphere as I wandered through the city. The once filled Perth Cultural Centre Garden or Elizabeth Quay, now stands bare, unoccupied and void of activity apart from occasional influx of by-passers or tourists. There presented an extreme lack of activity in areas once jam-packed with activity. What was left, was again an un-activated open space, in which its potential has been undermined. This made me question the so-called successes of temporary urbanism, with its claims of being a tool to bring vibrancy and diversity back into unactivated places.

The lack of activity at the Urban Orchard, Metropolitan Redevelopment Authority.


Yet, we can’t deny that such initiatives, taking the annual Fringe World Festival for instance, failed to bring people together. It had indeed brought waves of people into the core of the City of Perth. It enabled the arts culture of Perth to nurture, it increased the likelihood for audiences to engage with the arts, and had also brought the streets alive with quality events by both local and international artists3. Yet what comes after- the dreadful aftermath, was yet again, nothing more than returning to the dull, un-activated and dreary Perth. What really can be done about it then?

Empty streets along the Perth Cultural Centre, which was once filled with urban activation initiatives. (Perth Cultural Centre, Google Images.)


This got me thinking… Don’t pop-ups defeat the purpose of temporary urbanism initiatives then? That the dead scene that’s created at the cultural centre implies some sort of failure in itself? We all recognize that events come and go by the season, and it is inevitable where urban spaces lie dormant. Yet, nothing is done about it. Shouldn’t there too, be initiatives to cover the “loopholes” of this successful initiative? Maybe it is at such a point where community led initiatives should step in and revitalize the existing urban spaces. That by alternating the scale of events; The Better Block Foundation projects as opposed to one like Fringe World, would help sustain a place an­d its liveliness. This however, requires the willingness, participation and collaboration of the people. Things would just get a little tougher each time, and people will just have to work a little more4!


What might have kicked start a whole new cultural hype within the heart of Perth, be one that has permanent influence. That this temporality may be one that endures through the years, that brings new possibilities to spaces.


1. Francesca Miazzo and Triss Kee, eds., We Own The City (Netherlands: Valiz/Trancity, 2014), 3.

2. “Cult of the temporary: is the pop-up phenomenon food for cities?,” The Guardian, accessed April 20, 2017. https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2015/jul/20/cult-temporary-pop-up-phenomenon-cities.

3. “Fringe World Festival 2016 Impact Report”. Accessed April 19, 2017. https://issuu.com/artrage/docs/fringe_world_2016_impact_report.

4. “Fringe sizes up its growth,” The West Australian, accessed April 20, 2017. https://thewest.com.au/news/australia/fringe-sizes-up-its-growth-ng-ya-112085?r=1.


Image References:

Google Maps. 2016. ” Perth Cultural Centre.” Google. Accessed April 22. https://www.google.com/maps/place/Perth+Cultural+Centre/@-31.9501866,115.8607407,203m/data=!3m1!1e3!4m12!1m6!3m5!1s0x2a32bad12b3a593b:0x5ffca3805c107222!2sPerth+Cultural+Centre!8m2!3d-31.9499285!4d115.8608052!3m4!1s0x2a32bad12b3a593b:0x5ffca3805c107222!8m2!3d-31.9499285!4d115.8608052.

Metropolitan Redevelopment Authority. 2017. “Urban Orchard.” Metropolitan Redevelopment Authority. Accessed April 22. http://www.mra.wa.gov.au/see-and-do/perth-cultural-centre/attractions/urban-orchard.

Perth Girl. 2017. “Perth Fringe World Festival: Top Acrobat & Circus Shows in 2017.” Perth Girl. http://perthgirl.com.au/perth-fringe-world-2017-top-circus-acrobat-shows/.

Leave a Reply