Innovative temporary site uses help us reimagine city spaces, writes Timothy Moore, of the University of Melbourne.
The five-storey Myer department store in Fremantle, WA, closed in 2013 after four decades of service. The demise of a mass-market store in the heart of the port city should have been a large blow to the retail and broader character of the area.In the 20th century it would have been. But times have changed, in Australia and around the world. Rather than being left dormant while development plans were being drawn up, the building reopened as MANY 6160 six months after Myer closed.
MANY 6160 is Australia’s largest temporary place activation, with more than 20,000m² of space dedicated to retail, production and events. It provides spaces for independent artists, designers, other cultural workers and small business enterprises.In February 2016, MANY 6160 became home to Australia’s second-largest private gallery (after Hobart’s MONA). Called Success, it operates from the building’s basement.The temporary use of space has become popular in cities and towns across the world. When properties have lost their capacity to be rented or sold at a profit, or are left vacant for redevelopment plans, they have the potential for interim uses while the owner waits for development or for property prices to warm up.
How does temporary occupation work?
The advantages of temporary occupation are many. It allows members of a community to come together to work, socialise or learn, unencumbered by market-rate rents. It taps into culture’s current interest in customisation, localisation and co-creation. At MANY 6160 you can buy everything from 3D-printed jewellery to surfboards.
Temporary users can act as surveillance and maintenance providers for the property owner. At the same time, they bring cultural cachet to the space and adjacent area.Temporary occupation can bring about the challenging and redefinition of planning regulations and rental contracts. At MANY 6160, rental contracts are short – renters need give only 30 days’ notice to opt out.With planning regulations tailored towards permanent occupation, the local council was slightly confounded as to how to determine the building class of the gallery in the basement.
Recognising the benefits for users and owners, government agencies and developers are making it easier for real estate to become available for temporary use. They can, for example, reduce the liability for building owners and provide incentives for owners and citizens to start up their own projects.Space-brokering agencies have emerged in cities and towns across Australia – Adelaide, Townsville, Geelong, Newcastle and Parramatta – and further afield, in places like Christchurch, Singapore, Chicago and Dublin.