The Pop-Up Generation By Lidewij Edelkoort

We recently received the book The Pop-Up Generation: Design Between Dimensions by the internationally acclaimed Dutch trendwatcher Lidewij Edelkoort. The book highlights a new generation of artists, designers and graduates by exploring their vision, work and motivations.

According to Edelkoort and co-editor Lotte van Gelder, the pop-up generation is born behind the screen: “…they live in a shadow area; a no man’s land between the second and third dimension that they wish to connect”. This leads to all kinds of design projects in which this new generation uses the their ability to easily move from digital to analog and back.

The projects featured in The Pop-Up Generation have some characteristics in common. “They float and melt down again. They are temporary. And they are mobile, they can take you anywhere. These projects are often hybrid, moving between the virtual and the physical world. And lastly they are very much D.I.Y.” Nothing new for frequent Pop-Up City readers. However, the scope of this book is much wider. The pop-up trend goes beyond urban practice — that’s for sure. In all kinds of design and artistic disciplines, young people tend to look for more flexible ways to deal with current issues.

Interesting examples highlighted in the book are Studio Makkink & Bey’s Slow Car (2009), a prototype for a one-person working unit that enables users to move around in a capsule while they’re working, the Graffiti Cocktails by Niels ‘Shoe’ Meulman (2010), Electroland’s Urban Nomad Shelter (2004) and ‘The Beginning of the End’ by street artist Brad Downey (2010). Although most of these artists are age-wise no exponent of the pop up generation described in the book, their works are interesting and have a relation with temporarity, hybridity or flexibility. Without being complete or doing any framing, the book gives an entertaining overview of remarkable pop-up projects of the last decade. Besides all these examples, the book contains several essays by people like Bruce Sterling, Paola Antonelli, and our neighbors of DUS Architects. These are interesting explorations of what pop-up as a phenomenon means to contemporary design practice.

The book starts with some interpretations by the authors that define the pop-up trend in various elements: temporary, mobile, hybrid and D.I.Y. Here the authors chose a rather cynical tone of voice, which also comes to the front through the use of symbols of each of these chapters (a skull, a hare, a medicine cross and a man digging a hole — WTF?). It doesn’t become very clear where this negative sentiment comes from, but the book presents the pop-up generation as disconnected, losing control over reality, and not being aware of its own position and actions — all as a consequence of a way of life that is based on ‘the screen’ that they are raised with.

Here I think the book fails to capture the ideals and motives of the pop-up generation, and focuses too much on the tools that are used. It’s not all happening to them unconsciously. Also this generation of designers and artists knows what it’s doing and has its underlying motives. A generation is more than a result of the circumstances in which it grows up. This generation also has a vision on society, on the future, on the city and on design. And this vision is not only the result of the rise of online media. To really understand this pop-up generation, Edelkoort should have focused more on the ideals and motives of the pop-up generation. The new generation sees a world that’s changing faster than ever before as a consequence of various factors like new media, culture, globalization and economy.

The pop-up generation has found out that fixed solutions will not solve problems any more due to this incredible global acceleration. It has to come up with more hybrid, flexible and temporary constructions to create honest projects and real change. If this generation wants to move this world forward, it has to make it flexible instead of solid as it has always been, and that insight has created a huge accumulation of pop-up experiments in all kinds of fields.

The Pop-Up Generation: Design Between Dimensions
Lidewij Edelkoort
Published by BIS Publishers, Amsterdam
ISBN: 978-90-6369-282-7
288 pages