Ephemeral Structures competition entry 2002


“For the city is an idea, not just a concentration of the urban fabric….The city can only be fully
understood as a political institution” (Paul Hirst-Cities: from ancient Greece to globalisation)


The moment you step out of your front door, you are entering a zone of friction. The streets
are filled with people with opposing needs and interests crossing each other’s path. Each
wishing the other away in order to make life a little easier. City survival is about avoiding
conflict, delaying pain. Continually trying to find a shortcut to delay an inevitable
Politics emerges when there is too much friction, when confrontation is necessary and when
there is a shared need or concern. This public political interface is the essence of the city.
Public space is not merely what’s left over of private space, it is a construct of negotiation.
It is the intention of this project to celebrate this negotiation by having its dynamics
embodied in physical form.

Let’s pull together!

“The ephemeral may be taken to underline a certain present defined not in chronological
time, but describing the duration of a relationship.” (Marc Cousins-competition brief)


A process of public negotiation with all parties involved precludes the erection of this structure. Agreement will need to be reached on the desire to build, the positioning and fastening on site, and the resulting form. Duration will be agreed in relation to a series of
programmatic activities to be scheduled to take place in the shade/shelter of the structure. The structure will not provide specific facilities, but transform the spatial experience of the street/square in a way that is conducive for these activities, which could include; outdoor party/disco, nightly projections, street restaurant, café, market stalls, fair ground, street theatre, charity auction, bungee jumping, singing contest, bingo etc. etc. On the chosen site a structure of tensile fabric will be erected. Made up out of 15 identical pieces of fabric, which can be joined together in different ways to form endless varieties on a basic ‘tube’. This ‘tube’ can be over 100m long and over 10m in diameter. It contains no compression elements.


The structure is positioned to hover above a street or square in the city, only incidentally
touching the ground or another building. It is held in position by a large number of tension
wires pulling in all directions, fastened to the existing infrastructure of the city. The
fastenings are of a non-permanent nature, and can be removed (without damage to the host
structure) when it is dismantled.
The tension wires can be fastened to public elements as well as private ones. Any anchoring
to private structures are agreed to by their owners, and are used curt icy of their goodwill,
civic pride, and personal enthusiasm. Without this willingness and collaboration of private
individuals this public structure could not be erected. If any party would relinquish its hold,
the space will start to collapse into itself.
Equilibrium of forces between the anchor points determines the mutation of the basic ‘tube’.
The street is radically transformed by the spatial dance between the tensile structure and
the buildings. The interior of the ‘tube’ is a tranquil space of light; it can’t be entered, just
spied upon from select openings. The result is a formal expression of the relationship,
between a site, it’s inhabitants, it’s municipality, and it’s visitors.

A purely political construct.