Despite London’s Festival of Architecture being a regular event in the Capitals annual calendar, this year, the festival’s month long exploration into the built environment could not have come at a better time for Voist.

‘Capital’ was the festivals central theme this year, exploring its various manifestations; from London’s place as the UK’s government and finance hotspot, its flows of social and intellectual capital and (what we are most interested in of course) the politics of regeneration and its impact on the city.

Last Friday night at The Wick Sessions’ ‘Valuing the Temporary’, the panel (Charlotte Bean, Dr. Mara Ferreri, Dr. Kim Trogal, Marie Murray and Brian Cumming) presented a full panoramic discussion on the pros and cons of temporary use; considering how ‘pop-up’ culture is potentially affecting our sense of ownership of space.

The discussion was set in Swan Wharf, Hackney Wick. Once a warehouse occupied by The Sofa Workshop, now a pristinely rugged shell with all the essentials (thick new glass windows and a brand new concrete floor. Complete with a fine layer of dust from the sanding process that made the most beautiful sound beneath your feet). A spectacular stage, lit only by the evenings sun and the light of the projector.

Each speaker took it in turns to put forward their views of temporary use and the long term effects that current ‘pop-up’ culture is having on civic right to space within the city. Artist Bean from Performance Space and Marie and Brian from Dalston’s Eastern Curve Garden made some powerful cases against ‘pop-up culture’. Taking us on a tour of their work they invited the audience to look at the bigger picture and consider the challenges that face those trying to build community pride, shared values and promote longevity. Their main challenges being that ‘the powers that be’ have a complete lack of understanding or appreciation for the right to use their spaces for reasons other than profit.

The private sector and councils seem to be more and more unable – or just plain unwilling, to acknowledge space as anything more than a commodity. Failing stupendously to see the indirect benefits, both socially and commercially, of giving space to communities for use that has no direct link to capital gain.

Brain and Marie’s story is one that any East London resident should be following. For over four years they have devoted all their energy and passion to setting up and maintaining the Eastern Curve Garden. This garden provides a space for community cohesion, expression and respite for all local residence. Most of whom are suffering considerably from lack of space (indoors and out) in Dalston. The Eastern Curve Garden is the only bit of public green space in this highly energised, overcrowded and slightly saturated corner of East London.

Marie and Brian have been residence of Dalston for over 20 years. The influx of commercial businesses into the area recently has left them, and many other locals, feeling as though they have little ownership or control over what happens to this area; their home. The garden is a symbol of community pride and a space for groups to reconnect to a common set of values. From children that are suffering from difficulties in the home, elderly people who otherwise face isolation, to disabled groups who need a space for band practice. They all use the garden, free of charge and benefit greatly from doing so. Sadly however this space does not fit into the councils masterplan. The council, so far, are adamant that the Curve will be turned into a pathway leading to the new shopping centre.

Both Brian and Marie and Artist Bean questioned the true value of pop-up/temporary use space suggesting that this only drives social appetite for the new, the novel and eventually disposable. Taking value away from the everyday and the quiet. Bean argued that ‘pop-up’ culture is just another sign of capitalist control – that you only have right to a space until they say so. Maria Ferreri put forward the view that pop-ups do bring visibility to forgotten spaces and promote the ‘power of imagining. A space that is empty has so many possibilities’.

Each argument resonated with the journey that our ‘temporary use’ ticket has taken us on. Our days at The Depot are most definitely numbered and last Fridays talk was a fantastic reminder to cherish each and every day that we have left inside one of London’s last remaining Tram Depots before it becomes another Masterplan victim.