Temporary use can be distinguished from regular use not by time-frame but by objective. Temporary use is planned from the outset to fulfill certain goals and derive unique advantages from the idea of temporality. Temporary use does not exclude the possibility of long-term use, and may sometimes act as a gateway for this purpose. In fact, the word transitory (or transitional), commonly interchanged with the term temporary, specifically denotes an activity that serves in the interim between one use and the next. As it happens, transitional use is the preferred jargon of many people in the traditional planning community, many of whom still grapple with deeply rooted notions that short-term equals failure, or secondary measures.

While a well-executed and heavily funded master-plan can play a vital role in city planning, an alternative approach has emerged that promotes transitional development. That is, a range of time-limited projects set along a flexible path supported by a loosely defined end vision. As it happens, smaller, phased projects are well suited to unlocking the potential of a site in the short and long term, particularly in times of uncertainty.

Furthermore, while master-plans can have mechanisms that seek to reach a wider consensus about a vision, experience shows the process of community involvement is a difficult one. This is easily explained by a saying often used in planning circles, that is, you can only ever engage people around their concerns. If so, it is easy to see why large scale, long-term planning – where the end result may only be known 25 years down the line - will find it difficult to engage communities around their concerns. Temporary uses, in contrast, have been used to demonstrate to communities and stakeholders what a site might look like in the near future, thus opening the door to the participation of a much broader group of stakeholders.

Text by Mallory Wilson