Long-Term Strategies Based on Temporary Interventions

Helena Casanova | Jesús Hernández

Published in "Public Space Acupuncture", 2015

“You have to change to stay the same” is a well-known quote by the artist Willem De Kooning, which he frequently used to describe the challenge that contemporary artists face in maintaining their art alive over time. Maintaining public space constantly alive also requires the reflexes De Kooning referred to, and it implies a constant questioning of what exists in order to modify it and adapt it to an ever-changing context. This way of understanding public space, not as a unique entity that is static over time, but as a sequence of temporary interventions that are always changing to adapt to the reality in every moment, demands an extra effort that can only be effective and feasible if it is channeled through a calculated strategy.


Amsterdam. Temporary intervention by Aldo Van Eyck in a vacant lot, part of a long-term strategy developed between 1947 and 1978.

Conventionally, the design of public space elements such as streets, boulevards and squares has a limited lifespan, since the natural deterioration of the materials used, damages resulting from accidents and acts of vandalism, or a decrease in use due to changes in the surroundings at some point make their partial renovation, and in many cases their complete transformation, a necessity. In light of this fact, new alter- native interventions in public space take into account the estimated lifespan of the work to a greater extent, adjusting design and materials to achieve a more efficient and sustainable product. At the same time, the careful synchronization of an adequate program of activities with the lifespan of the intervention helps to promote maximum use of the public space during that period.

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[1] Liane Lefaivre, Ingeborg de Roode, Rudolf Herman Fuchs, Aldo van Eyck: The Playgrounds and the City. Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, 2002.