The Influence of Temporary Structures on Architectural Design

Most architects design their buildings to last for centuries if not longer. However, there’s something to be said for structures that aren’t meant to be upright for longer than a few months at most. These temporary buildings serve as sources of inspiration and appreciation for their basic engineering and fundamental construction.

Those who are intent on designing buildings meant to last far into the future can learn a lot from the look and feel of temporary structures, as demonstrated below:


When it comes to architecture, temporary structures are the essence of simplicity in design. Whether it’s a 10×10 tent for a tradeshow or a bounce house for a birthday party, temporary structures showcase how much can be done with very little. This can help architects to temper their tendency to incorporate more material and layout than is needed for achieving the purpose of a structure.


Most temporary structures are – by virtue of their design – limited on the amount of resources being used in their construction. In a world where clients are adamant about keeping costs low, the cost-effective use of building materials is essential for architects to embrace. By studying the ratio of materials used in the construction of temporary buildings, architects are better equipped to incorporate similar ratios in their own designs.


Buildings are rarely – if ever – moved from one location to another. Such a process typically involves the transfer of thousands if not millions of bricks or a similarly monumental task. But what if this assumption were turned on its head? What if we design buildings that can be more easily moved to a different location if necessary?  If this is ever to be the task of architects of the future, the temporary structures of today will hold the key.


Part of the genius of an igloo is the use of packed snow – a common resource in the environments where igloos are built – as the primary building material. The parabolic design of an igloo is a product of the material being used, in order to prevent the structural collapse which can be caused by melted ice and snow. This sort of sensibility of building design can be used by modern architects seeking to design more eco-friendly and cost-effective structures.


There’s more patience for creativity in design if it’s believed a structure will not be permanent. The greatest example of this is the Eiffel Tower, an iconic steel structure originally built to be the entrance to the 1890 World’s Fair. Most Parisians and French officials, as well as those considered the vanguards of French culture, considered the Eiffel Tower to be a grotesque eyesore not suitable for the skyline of the City of Light. Its construction was authorized partly because it was meant to be dismantled after it had served its purpose. Of course, that never happened and the Eiffel Tower – originally meant to be a temporary structure – still stands today over 130 years later.

Buildings are like monuments in the minds of most architects. They are built to stand in the same spot for as long as possible, becoming one with the surrounding landscape. However, there’s something to be said about structures that are not meant to be in the same place for too long. The art and science behind these temporary designs provide basic principles that every architect should appreciate.

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