Temporary Use as a Participatory Placemaking Tool

This article looks at how temporary use of vacant space can by used as a participatory place making tool to support cultural initiatives and its connection to city marketing strategies by drawing on the case of Athens, Greece. Although focusing on Athens, learnings from this case can apply to other places.

Date added 26 March 2021
Last updated 26 March 2021

Temporary use or “meanwhile use” of vacant spaces can address the challenge of increasing vacancy rates and provide opportunities to support the cultural economy, regeneration goals and marketing strategies. This paper by Karachalis (2021) discusses temporary use of vacant spaces in the context of contemporary challenges European cities are facing such as austerity crisis, unemployment, refugee crisis, lack of affordable housing or office space, but with an emphasis on the creative sector. This is particularly relevant at this moment in time due to COVID-19 having such a significant impact on communities and as meeting local needs has become a focus. The paper is partly based on the Athens URBACT Refill project, which included an extended consultation process with local stakeholders. Further results focus on experimenting with temporary use in the cultural sector, how relationships and collaborations were formed, and the effectiveness of such initiatives.

It the case of Athens, the study found that temporary use initiatives contributed to creating a new narrative for the city along the characteristics of an open, creative, experimental city. This was then incorporated into the marketing strategy for Athens to some extent. However, the study also found long term challenges to bottom-up approaches without institutional support as citizens, creatives, and others find it difficult to stay committed to a common goal over time due to personal circumstances, exhaustion, and/or a lack of financial incentives. Yet, the need for space to serve the local community is there, and in the creative sector especially due to COVID-19.

In conclusion, there is a strong need to provide further support for temporary uses in Athens (as with elsewhere), particularly within the creative sector, as cultural workers have been hard hit by the financial implications of COVID-19. Whilst funding schemes can be effective, this depends on whether affordable space is provided and in Athens this need is well evidenced.