Do temporary structures foster innovation?

By Mark Sheppard.

The recent news that Melbourne City Council is planning to build a temporary pavilion to house the Queen Victoria Market traders while it is undergoing refurbishment ( has got me thinking about other significant temporary structures over time.
The most famous ‘temporary’ structure is undoubtedly the Eiffel Tower.  Built in the late 1880s for a World’s Fair and at that time the world’s tallest man-made structure, it was also innovative in terms of its structural design, construction method and inclined lifts.  The design of the Eiffel Tower was highly controversial and it was originally intended to be dismantled after 20 years, but survived because of its value for communications.  Now, of course, it is the most popular tourism destination in France, itself the most popular tourism destination in the world in 2015.  Perhaps Gustave Eiffel foresaw this, comparing it to the Egyptian pyramids.
Other examples of temporary structures that have survived include Seattle’s famous Space Needle, built for the 1962 World’s Fair—and the London Eye which, like the Great Wheel of the 1895-1906 Empire of India Exhibition in London, was not intended to be permanent, only receiving planning permission for 5 years at first.  Built to commemorate the Millennium, it is the world’s tallest cantilevered observation wheel (and, like the Eiffel Tower, the most popular tourism destination of its nation).
The Crystal Palace built in London’s Hyde Park for the Great Exhibition of 1851, was the world’s largest glass structure.  It was designed by a country manor house gardener, Joseph Paxton, audaciously appointed after earlier competition entries were determined to be too dull or expensive.  Subsequently relocated to the suburbs, where it was ultimately destroyed by a fire, its name lives on in that neighbourhood and its football club.
Although not intended to be temporary, the theme for the 1967 Expo in Montreal—‘Man and his World’—created the opportunity for the Habitat 67 ‘pavilion’ to demonstrate a new model for living in high density environments.  Habitat 67 is now feted for its innovative concepts around prefabrication, social integration and urban living.
The temporary pavilion for Queen Victoria Market is proposed to be prefabricated to enable its quick construction and future relocation, and incorporates innovative ESD features.
All of these temporary structures followed design competitions of one sort or another.  But design competitions haven’t always resulted in innovative buildings.
All of which begs the question—Does the notion that a structure is temporary foster innovation by freeing both designers and the public up from normal reservations?


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