Embracing Temporary Architecture

Summer is a time for weekend getaways, exploration, and trips into the known and unknown. My most recent adventure took me deep into the back country of the Colorado Rockies cohabiting with the unscathed landscape and its natural beauty. Due to the nature of this trip, our accommodations were minimal, mobile, and temporary. This got me thinking about the relationship of permanence vs. temporary in our profession. 

As architects we are typically working with clients and structures that strive for a lasting permanence for long standing habitation. Driven by return on investment and indestructible materials we work to study the context to create our built environment, not expecting it to be removed in our lifetime. However, we are all visitors on this earth, nothing was more apparent to me on this trip in Colorado. What fascinates me is the small percentage of time spent on temporary structures in which we use to inhabit our world. Sustainable, force-ably low cost and low maintenance, these structures tend to get utilized for the underserved, leisure, or the quick fix solutions. Refuge camps, trailer parks, mobile homes, and camping are just a few.

So, with the exception of ice freezing on my tent each night, below are some incredible examples of temporary architecture.

Our Accommodations - The TransRockies Run in Colorado

Camp JRF - Featuring Yurts

Earlier in my career I worked on designing an Eco-Village at Camp JRF, the Jewish re-constructionist summer camp, which features among many other programmatic elements, Yurts for the campers to sleep in during their stay at camp. 

Yurts have been a distinctive feature of life in Central Asia for at least 3,000 years

Traditional yurts consist of an expanding wooden circular frame carrying a felt cover

Mobile Tiny Homes

The new craze, tiny homes. Many of these are mobile structures and running completely autonomously.  Featuring sustainable features and reuse of recycled materials, they are on the rise where cost savings meets flexible lifestyle.

Refuge/Disaster Relief Camps

After natural disasters, there is a very short time period initially where attention and aid is focused on the suffering region. Resources are poured into the area to help with the immediacy of many issues, one being the new living situation for all survivors. Some have argued that with all the materials brought in for the supplies, the reuse of those materials, such as pallets from the supply drops, can provide the temporary structures needed to house the population until a permanent plan is in place.


And who can count out all of those luxury campers. Nothing like a sliding door in your tent to keep the bugs out.

In the end, a temporary structure serves as solutions to many situations and lifestyles, and might just have a lifespan on this earth as long as any built structure.


Drew Miller, Project Manager