Is temporariness a precondition for Guerrilla? Or can we incorporate Guerrilla into everyday life? In short, which elements of Guerrilla can be used again? And what does the future hold? Nathalie Jager of Urban Signature spoke to architects Elma van Boxel and Albert Herder.

Book tip The Spontaneous City Urhahn Urban Design

Street level storytelling
Nathalie Jager, Urban Trend Hunter
and editor of Urban Signature

“Modern cities have discovered that city events, design and fashion trade fairs are an excellent way to promote a city internationally. The city becomes a shop window because of these temporary design projects. This generates media coverage and attracts large numbers of consumers. The London Design Week, Salone del Mobile Milan and Amsterdam Fashion Week are successful examples. These events are used by the crea-economy (designers, marketeers and others) and by the city itself to engage in street level storytelling by using temporary decorations, locations and shops.

There are three trends that will become even stronger in the future: Interaction Street: interactive shop windows, designing the shop like a website, Bluetooth and other applications welcome passers-by with local special offers. Permanent pop-up stores: constantly changing new experiences and actions. Brands like to maintain a strong bond with their hungry consumers this way. Finally, Theme-Cities: cities will focus on a joint theme to create a positive image during recurring events. The theme that is chosen must be authentic, however. This is crucial in order to be unique and believable.”

The meantime is key
Elma van Boxel, architect and founder
of Zones Urbaines Sensibles (ZUS)

“At ZUS we are fascinated by transit space, which is where indoor and outdoor areas meet. Lobbies and markets, for example. How can these public-private domains be activated? Rotterdam is a rather anonymous city. Once residents, entrepreneurs and users start 'owning' streets and areas, the city becomes personal. Diversity in a street makes that street successful and profitable. Developers often buy an urban area. But they can't be expected to know how the city should be changed. They do not look at the social context but only at the financial aspects. By involving architects and entrepreneurs you can come up with very good plans for a certain area. It is crucial to incorporate existing buildings in these plans.

Take the Schieblock, for example. We have transformed this derelict building into an 'urban laboratory' as we call it: office space, a roof garden, a vegetable garden and a labour hotel (werkhotel). The Schieblock offers office space for rent or temporary workstations for a few hours, architecture networking events every Thursday and Rotterdam ByCycle is located on the ground floor. We are testing this concept on a temporary basis. This is the major advantage of projects in the meantime. A chance to experiment. In the future, this will happen on a much wider scale. A successful experiment can then become more permanent.”

Temporary status: an opportunity
for experimenting

Albert Herder, founder of HVDN Architecten,
nominated for Dutch Architect of the Year 2010

“Guerrilla is anarchy. That is not what we do but we do push the limits and we search for boundaries. We use transience as a strategy to put area's on the map. A number of years ago, the municipality of Amsterdam was looking for a way to offer more student accommodation. At the time, the Houthavens were an impopular area full of drug addicts and prostitutes. We developed the Qubic project: small, colourful and portable containers for students. They were built in nine months. After that, a temporary college was built - also in nine months - the Vierde Gymnasium. These are temporary buildings, but different. They are beautiful and efficient and not that much more expensive. These buildings can be moved and be given another function.

The Houthavens have now become an attractive area with striking architecture, Strand West and locations for meetings. Because of the temporary status, it is more likely that the local government gives permission for new initiatives. This creates an opportunity for experiments. This is also how guerrilla works. Take away the rules and regulations and involve several parties in urban area development. Large government subsidies are finished but there are smaller financial sources, such as individuals and small businessmen. What's more, they are often creative which is essential. Because of this strategy, urban areas come to life.”