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Does permanence matter? Ephemeral Urbanism featured in exhibition at Pinakothek der Moderne
Autobahn-Market, China. © 2003 Map Office / Gutierrez+Portefaix.

MUNICH.- How long-term should urban planning be?

Munich’s Oktoberfest, the Kumbh Mela pilgrimage in India (or the largest gathering of humans on the planet), the Burning Man Festival in Nevada, and other major events demonstrate that flexible architectural configurations are temporarily deployed around the globe to provide medium-term shelter, often to enormous crowds. Such structures fulfill a range of functional tasks and are used in religious and cultural festivals or can take the form of military camps, refugee camps, or even temporary mining towns. This show traces a global phenomenon that has become increasingly topical given today’s current state of mass migration triggered by climate change, political strife, and natural disasters.

While the ephemeral in architecture and urbanism has generally been considered to be of minor value, this exhibition claims the opposite—presenting examples that challenge the notion of permanence, as a default condition for cities. These cases of “Ephemeral Urbanism” have much to teach us about architecture and cities, as an additional element in the urban imaginary.

The exhibition is based on a long-term study by Rahul Mehrotra at the Harvard Graduate School of Design and Felipe Vera at the Centro de Ecología, Paisaje y Urbanismo in Santiago de Chile. This research on Ephemeral Cities focuses on the systematic analyses of hundreds of cases sharing the same common denominator: they are settlements with an expiration date!

In the exhibition space, a series of examples are displayed, showcasing situations on different locations and for various purposes. In addition to this variety of settlements, the show dedicates special space to interdisciplinary research developed by Harvard University’s South Asia Institute about “Kumbh Mela: The Ephemeral Mega-City.” In 2013, a team monitored the large-scale event from its preparation through to the actual celebration, investigating and documenting the prototypes for flexible urban planning and offering organizers support on issues related to environmental protection. This religious festival, understood to have started thousands of years ago, happens every twelve years in Allahabad, India.

The exhibition concept is developed by a team of curators, including Rahul Mehrotra, Felipe Vera, Andres Lepik, Marcelo della Giustina, and m-a-u-s-e-r (Asli Serbest and Mona Mahall).

Alongside the exhibition, a magazine will be published by the Architekturmuseum covering the examples presented and including contributions by Saskia Sassen, Richard Sennett, Arjun Appadurai, and an interview with Mahmoud Bodo Rasch. Additional essays will be written by Peter Mörtenböck and Helge Mooshammer, Manuel Herz, Mathieu Wellner, Asli Serbest and Mona Mahall, Chiara Ursini, Marcelo della Giustina, and DAAR.

Supporting the exhibition is audiovisual material that includes work by Dinesh Mehta, MAP Office, Other Markets, Jorge Luis Baca, and Matthias Kestel, as well as photographs by Gregor Sailer, Laurent Gutierrez, Valérie Portefaix, and others. The exhibition architecture and magazine design is being developed by m-a-u-s-e-r (Asli Serbest and Mona Mahall).

During the exhibition period, a significant program of events is planned, including a series of lectures about the current discussions on ephemeral urbanism.

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