Temporary Cities: Teaching Us a Better Way to Build


In today’s world of skyscrapers and monuments, it seems that most people will agree, bigger is better. Impressive buildings leave a more lasting impression, right? Traditional construction has drawn our iconic city lines and marked important changes in history and culture. It also raises some important questions. How does this mentality impact our earth and environment? Will we be able to change our landscape based on the needs of future generations? Are we inhibiting our growth and resisting positive change to maintain the status quo?

As our world is changing, so are our expectations for construction. Developers and end-users alike are learning the benefits of temporary construction. Here are 5 lessons we’ve learned from studying nomadic and temporary cities.


They’re Earth (and budget) Friendly

 Perhaps the biggest concern surrounding heavy infrastructure is its large ecological footprint. Massive amounts of natural resources are poured into constructing new buildings and expanding cities. Temporary cities use much less material and provide opportunities for recycling and adaptive reuse after they have served their purpose.

Take India’s Kumbh Mela for example—a 55-day Hindu festival that takes place every 12 years on the banks of the Ganges River. During the 10 weeks before the festival, after the waters of the monsoon season recede from the river’s shores, residents set up a megacity out of basic materials, complete with a grid and utilities, that will house 7 million people! Within a week after the festival, everything is taken down and reabsorbed into the city.

Although an extreme example, the Kumbh Mela offers us a chance to reflect on how we can cooperate more with nature when designing and expanding our cities. Requiring fewer new materials and less energy to develop land reduces the financial burden and frees community resources for other purposes.


They’re Flexible

 Impermanent structures allow people to adapt to constant changes in their environment. They can be outfitted with the latest technologies to fit the newest trends or repurposed when their original purpose has been fulfilled. Temporary builds are also mobile, allowing them to be transported on tours or to meet geographical changes in demand.

Shopping malls are permanently shuttering at an alarming rate largely due to the rapid changes in buying trends. Consumers are flocking towards the convenience of digital and online shopping, leaving brick and mortar establishments to the mercy of shifting demand. Shopping mall revitalization requires such a large budget that they are usually abandoned or marked for demolition rather than repurposed for future use.


They Make the Most of What’s Available

 Large retail spaces are plagued by empty parking lots. These lots cost a lot to build and take up excessive space that could be making money. Imagine; in America, there are as many as 2 billion parking spaces for about 250 million cars. That’s a lot of wasted potential!

Underused spaces like empty parking lots present the perfect opportunity to reap the benefits of temporary construction. In a previous post, Three Ways to Turn Your Vacant Parking Lot into a Cash Cow, we addressed this very concept. Pop up events and temporary attractions are assembled and disassembled without changing the parking lots themselves. When used at recurring events, the structures are designed to be moved and reassembled over and over. A retail manager could easily set up pop up events or attractions during slow seasons to attract customers and increase store traffic.


They Change the Way People Think About Construction

Permanent structures require a lot of planning and consideration. The result may be grand, but developers may have also sacrificed new ideas or creative experiments to uphold industry standards. In designing temporary structures, code requirements are less stringent, allowing architects and designers more freedom to push boundaries and imagine what buildings can and should be. They can consider the structure’s relationship with its surroundings. The result is something more experiential and interesting.

Innovations in temporary construction create possibilities for solving some of today’s most pressing concerns. With temporary cities, places that are affected by rising sea levels or hurricanes can be moved or rearranged based on environmental factors.


They Promote Diversity/They Bring the Community Together

 The fleeting nature of temporary establishments attracts people seeking new experiences. This brings people of different backgrounds together to enjoy a common interest, creating a sense of community. In a similar sense, organizations can address the demands of local audiences that may be hard to reach under normal circumstances.

Temporary cities can also bring more flavor and variety into people’s daily lives by offering new experiences. Farmer’s markets and weekend festivals are easily recognizable examples of providing local communities with reasons to gather and enjoy a good time.


While conventional architecture and permanent structures play their part in our modern culture, there is a need for more flexible solutions. Temporary construction offers a host of new ideas and opportunities to make the best of what we have while benefitting local communities and the environment. To learn more about how businesses can use temporary construction, fill out our contact form!