Harvard Graduate School of Design
The Ephemeral City: Research Seminar on Temporal Urbanism
Critic: Rahul Mehrotra, Luis Felipe Vera Benitez
Year: 2014

Collaborators: Duncan Corrigall

This research is in the process of publication through the Harvard Graduate School of Design and the Ephemeral Urbanism Research Project.
Ephemeral Urbanism Research Project 


Today, the scale and pace of contemporary urbanization questions the notion of permanence as a basic condition of cities. In reaction to this condition, there is an emerging argument about the need to situate the notion of the ephemeral in the larger discourse on cities.

In recent years, there has been an extraordinary increase in pilgrimage practices, which have consequently translated into the need of larger and more frequently constructed settlements for hosting mass gatherings. Climate change, ensuing natural disasters and political rife are rendering temporary settlements as holding strategies or short-term solutions with more frequent occurrence. At the same time, cultural celebrations are also constantly increasing in scale as well as frequency, and resulting in the erection of temporary built structures within and outside urban areas. These examples can be expanded to add several other cases including: an array of pop-up settlements built for the extraction of natural resources in mining, oil extraction, and forestry industries, as well as temporary installations for defense purposes in different latitudes, and even the recent disruptive constructions inside formal settlements as a result of the ‘Occupy’ movement.

The goal of this research is to develop several taxonomies of ephemeral urbanism (such as celebration, natural disaster, refugee, religion) in order to gain a deeper understanding within design on flow management, accelerated urban metabolism, the deployment of infrastructure, cultural identity, adjustment, and elasticity in urban conditions. These taxonomies represent an entire surrogate urban ecology that grows and disappears on an, often extremely tight, temporal scale.


excerpts from the research specifically focusing on the ephemeral urbanism of disaster relief



© Carly Gertler 2017