The concept of a portable structure seems contrary to normal expectations. A building, after all, should be grounded with a solid footing and not move! Nevertheless, Aaron Betsky, architecture critic, curator and the dean of the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture, Scottsdale, Ariz., argued in a recent online opinion piece that temporary structures should be given more attention. Citing a number of innovative temporary structures now being created by younger architects and designers, he contrasts this with architecture’s “weightier” traditions.
“We have all been brought up with the idea that the best architecture should be timeless,” says Betsky. “It should rise beyond the vagaries of current fashion and style. It should embody values that are permanent. It should accept, but not be defined by, the rhythms of everyday life. It should last for as long as possible and then make a good ruin. Architecture, in other words, should be monumental, abstract, and difficult and expensive to build.” Betsky counters this assumption in praise of the ephemeral, less expensive and livelier designs he cites in his article: “Let’s enjoy the fact that temporary architecture is letting loose a wave of creativity, inventiveness and serious effectiveness that the discipline has not seen in ages.”
As Betsky argues, newer, highly innovative temporary structures are being designed by young architects with an urgent need to build, using lightweight materials and loads of creativity. These structures often involve textiles and textile-based composites because these materials have an inherent strength-to-weight ratio that outperforms more traditional and heavier materials.
Bruce N. Wright is an architect and frequent contributor to IFAI publications, as well as a consultant to the industry through his company Just Wright Communications.