Pop-up City. Searching for instant urbanity

February 18, 2017
By City Space Architecture

In June 2013 City Space Architecture started to work on the photography research project "Pop-up City" in the city of Bologna. "Pop-up City" is curated by our President Dr Luisa Bravo and has been developed in collaboration with the photographer Fabio Mantovani.
Working on different locations, the "Pop-up City" project intended to highlight existing places with a potential for public life, looking for invisible dimensions of the public realm, searching for an "ordinary magic" along everyday streets, squares and neighborhoods, delivering new powerful images of the urban world. We explored in particular those suburban places, generally disconnected from the mental representation of the urban narrative plot of public spaces made of beauty and fascination, with no identity and continuity with the historic environment. We were moving further from the European mental attitude that immediately links the concept of “public space” to the idea of a traditional designed square.
These suburban places are part of the everyday existence, but common people are accustomed to experience them as fragments in a sort of jump-cut urbanism, affected by the use of cars. We pass through but we don’t notice. The suburban world can be banal, sometimes ugly, not interesting, but full of life and can transform itself into an enchanting environment. People simply have to understand a new kind of urbanity, made of small, temporary, spontaneous and creative episodes of emotional exchange.
A pop-up city is overlapping on the existing designed city. It is unexpected, unconventional and exciting. It is inexpensive and freely accessible to everyone. It creates vibrant energies, embedding life and aspirations. It changes your perception, but only if you are ready to embrace it.
The Pop-up City project is trying to document what is now largely undocumented. We are representing the city of Bologna, but actually the Pop-up City could be anywhere. 


Curatorial statement by Luisa Bravo

Our world is made of architecture.

We move in an almost entirely uninterrupted architectural environment.

We feel places and spaces as being connected to an urban experience.

Every part is fixed on a static self-consciousness, based on known elements.

We became accustomed to our own mental representations of the city we live in.

Our eyes are often unable to perceive elements that appear and disappear, altering the physical realm.

We pass through, but we don’t see.

Small improvements, spontaneous and creative interventions continuously add content.

Handmade and tactical activities are like-minded expressions of a real need.

A need to create something better, a need to exist and act.

Living communities are reclaiming their right to the urban game.

A pop-up city is overlapping onto the designed, existing city.

It is unexpected, unconventional and exciting.

It is cheap and freely accessible to everyone.

It gives vibrant accelerations, embedding life and aspirations.

It is able to change your perception, but only if you are ready to catch it.

The pop-up city is full of emotions at a glance.

It asks for direct experience and dynamic exchange.

Running in a park, on a sunny afternoon.

Crossing a square, in a hurry.

Looking for some inspiration, in a secret place.

In the traffic, moving through flows and colors.

Working outside, on a mid-afternoon break.

Exploring the downtown, along the porticoes.

On a pleasant walk en plein air.

Hacking the urban space, joyfully.

Sitting on the sidewalk, in a full moon night.

Playing in an out-of-the-ordinary soccer field.

The pop-up city can be a scenario of the unreal.

It can be a dream, an intelligible product of our mind.

It can be a retrospective memory or a déjà vu.

It can be everywhere and nowhere.

Just a snapshot and it’s gone.





BOLOGNA. Quartiere San Vitale, Municipality of Bologna.
6 photographs were exhibited as part of a public symposium. That was a work in progress, in order to test people interest and curiosity about the project.



BOLOGNA, Museum of the History of Bologna at Palazzo Pepoli, June 27-July 20

10 photographs, as the first result of this work, were selected for a three-weeks public exhibition. On June 27, 2014 we celebrated the opening with academic scholars and professionals attending the "Past Present and Future of Public Space" International Conference on Art, Architecture and Urban Design in Bologna.
Thanks to Fondazione Cassa di Risparmio di Bologna and Genus Bononiae, for the generous hospitality and for supporting our project.


BOLOGNA. Esprit Nouveau Pavilion, Fiera District, October 31

10 photographs were showed in the Diorama hall, as part of the seminar Life in Cities, on the occasion of the very first World Cities Day promoted by UN-Habitat!

Thanks to Emilia-Romagna Region, Department for Urban Regeneration

HONG KONG. Tin Sau Bazaar, Tin Shui Wai, November 8-15

3 photographs were selected and displayed at a big scale, approximately 1:1 scale.
Tin Shui Wai is a city formerly known as sadness: located at the margin of Hong Kong, its space has no identity, it lacks street spaces for communal encounters and micro-economic activities.  All these result in the stigmatisation of Tin Shui Wai with problems such as social isolation and a high unemployment rate. The Magic Carpet project team at The Chinese University of Hong Kong and Tung Wah Group of Hospitals Tin Sau Bazaar see that Pop-up City resonatesthe situation of Tin Shui Wai. Bologna and Hong Kong share the same suburban reality, in a way that is not difficult to perceive: even if they are related to different geographical contexts and cultures, the two cities are dealing with living communities in new, large urban landscapes far away from the historic downtown district.
Through staging Pop-up City at Tin Shui Wai, the Magic Carpet project team and Tin Sau Bazaar hope to re-envision, activate, and transform the public space of the district, and thereby make the community more vibrant. In addition, the project aims to foster art and cultural exchange in Tin Shui Wai, where creative activities are scarce.


Preview of the book 'Pop-up City. Searching for instant urbanity'.


Pop-up City was presented in several international events and published on relevant journals.


PRESENTATIONS (by the curator Dr Luisa Bravo)

2014 - PORTO, Portugal. ISUF Conference

2014 - BUENOS AIRES, Argentina. Second 'Future of Places' Conference

2015 - ROME, Italy. MaPS. Mastering Public Space @ MAXXI B.A.S.E.

2016 - QUITO, Ecuador. Fabrica Ciudad, United Nations Habitat III Village

2018 - MELBOURNE, Australia. RMIT University, School of Art.


PUBLICATIONS (by the curator Dr Luisa Bravo)

Bravo, L. (2016) “Pop-up City. Searching for instant urbanity”, The Journal of Public Space, 1(1), pp. 155-158. doi: https://doi.org/10.5204/jps.v1i1.18. Open the article here.



HONG KONGNovember 2014. Photography session during the Umbrella Revolution, in Kowloon, Hong Kong Island, Mong Kok, Tin Sui Wai, Kwai Shing West Estate, Upper Ngau Tau Kok Estate.

BEIRUT (forthcoming).

BARCELONA (forthcoming).