Ask some people, and they'll tell you that pop-up architecture is a quintessentially 21st century form of architecture, but in fact the idea goes back over 2000 years. In this article originally published on Curbed as "The Rise and Rise of Pop-Up Architecture," Marni Epstein-Mervis traces the development of pop-up architecture right from its origins in ancient Rome, analyzing how the phenomenon has transformed into what we recognize today.
For five weeks in August and September 2015, street artist Banksy opened a dystopian theme park with Disney-esque castles and theme rides in the seaside town of Weston-super-Mare in southwest England. Attractions included a police van mired in the muck and goo of a forgotten cityscape, and an overturned pumpkin coach and horses with Cinderella tossed half outside of it. These installations, one a commentary on our police state and the other a commentary on celebrity and the tragic death of Princess Diana, were just two of the many pieces at last summer’s temporary "bemusement" park, which Banksy called Dismaland. After its run, the timber and fixtures were sent to a refugee camp—home to over 3,000 people, mostly from Sudan, Eritrea, and Afghanistan—near Calais in France.
Pop-ups like Dismaland are everywhere. The impermanent, unexpected, and even slightly irreverent have become community staples. We can visit pop-up amusement parks, shop at pop-up stores, eat at pop-up restaurants, and stay at pop-up hotels. "Architecture has transitioned into an experience. An experience where, purposefully, it is difficult to tell the difference between the design and the art installation," says Melanie Ryan, Design Principal at the Los Angeles-based experiential and mobile design house Open For Humans.