The Research Project on The Ephemeral City led by Rahul Mehrotra and Felipe Vera, has been a systematic effort for analyzing cities and settlements that are built with an explicit expiry date. Rather than understanding urbanization as a process by which space is transformed into hard agglomeration, the project has been focused on the inverse (dis)assembling reversible structures and architectures made out from light elements. As part of the work, attention has been paid to an extraordinary intensification of pilgrimage practices in recent years, which has translated into the need of larger and more frequently constructed structures for hosting massive gatherings. Among the examples analyzed were ephemeral constructions deployed for the Haj as well as a series of temporary settlements constructed to host other Indian celebrations such as the Durga Puja, Ganesh Chaturthi, and the Kumbh Mela — the latter being a religious pilgrimage that, according to official figures, supports the congregation of more than 100 million people and the habitation of 7 million people in fixed space for 55 days – the duration of the festival. The research has also been focused on natural disasters induced by changes in climatic conditions that are increasingly making evident the importance of temporary shelters as holding strategies or short-term solutions. Recent cases include the Philippines, Haiti, Chile, and several other instances of ‘temporary cities’ built in the context of disaster. Additionally, in many locales, political tensions have contributed to the displacement of people from their sites of origin, creating refugee camps around the globe. Additionally, non-religious cultural celebrations are also on the rise - increasing in scale as well as frequency. They, too, cause the erection of temporary structures within and outside urban areas. Extensive music festivals like Exit in Serbia, Coachella in California, and Sziget in Budapest motivate the construction of extended ephemeral settlements that for short periods of time congregate incredibly large groups of people. Recent additions include temporal cities built for the exploitation of natural resources in mining, oil extraction, and forestry as well as cities built for military or defense purposes in contested territories, transaction-induced pop-up cities set up within and outside of city boundaries, temporary structures that support massive influxes of people around sporting events, or even the disruptive constructions inside formal spaces, such as the camps of the Occupy movement. These cases present interesting provocations, from which we could potentially learn and extrapolate strategies for urban design and planning in the future.
Curators: Felipe Vera & Rahul Mehrotra in Collaboration with Diego Pinochet
Design and Production Team: Paulina Leyton, Juan Pablo Corral