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Be Builtfully Blog

Pandemic Pop-Ups

Updated: Apr 12, 2022

During 2020-2021, many incidents occurred where I was living in Minneapolis, Minnesota, including the pandemic, protests, homelessness, and more. Another aspect of placemaking that could be seen popping up was literally 'pop-ups'!

As stated in the Tactical Urbanism Short-term Action for Long-term Change book, pop-ups are a part of tactical urbanism: "an approach to neighborhood building and activation using short-term, low-cost, and scalable intervention and policies."

As I no longer live in Minneapolis, I took some time to reflect on my experience through a placemaker's lens. This blog will focus on what I did observe so places can learn how to encourage pop-ups to gather people together to support locals, share ideas, and build community.

Read my lessons learned from a placemaker blog here if you want to learn more about placemaking.

This post showcases various creative ways with placemaking pop-ups that people tried to gather safely with social distancing requirements. Second, there are examples of the homeless encampments that popped up around the city and creative suggestions for housing based on pop-up housing. Lastly, the post looks into the art pop-ups that rose when people needed to get their messages out to the public.

This Pandemic Placemaking blog post will analyze the inspiring aspects of a challenging time and how we need to continue to make better places for all.

Pop-Up Placemaking

Due to health restrictions, communities had to find creative solutions to gathering. They met in parking lots, pop-up events, and more. Since social distancing became a requirement for public health, placemaking trends occurred across the city.

For example, as seen in this photo, main streets along the Mississippi River and the Chain of Lakes in Minneapolis, Minnesota, were reduced to pedestrian and bicycle-only. One lane slowed down traffic as a shared road.

This more pedestrian-friendly street experience is similar to a Woonerf-style street in the Netherlands. A Woonderf translates to a "living yard" or refers to a "living street" in the United Kingdom and the United States.

It was a joy to experience biking in the street, children playing, and people walking their dogs with less traffic. The roads were also quieter and more inviting. It changed the environment completely when it went back to being open, with street parking and traffic.

Various pop-up pandemic placemaking is shown in the slideshow below, with breweries hosting pop-up patios, alleys with pandemic guideline spaced seating, patios with bonfire pits and heaters for all seasons, restaurants with pick-up and takeaway stations, and activated sidewalks with pop-up business booths.

Another placemaking technique that encourages interaction is having community engagements and events, which are impactful ways to support local businesses, provide entertainment, educate and bring people together.

In this photo collage below, these are creative examples of enhancing spaces. You can see adorable garden spaces for enjoyment, interactive community engagement activity, pop-up shopping booths, farmer's markets with colorful displays, winter igloos for outdoor dining, city engagement activity with a self-guided meditation, and a pop-up flea market in a parking lot. Hopefully, this inspires ideas for your city or town can become a more welcoming and vibrant community for all.

Pop-Up Housing

Due to the competitive housing market, there has been a need for quick, affordable, and flexible housing options. Pop-up housing has become a creative solution for this. There are many worldwide examples of pop-up housing. Pop-up housing can aid in homelessness, disaster relief, artist studios, and more.

I have been passionate about having a place to call home for many years. My Undergraduate degree is in Housing Studies from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, and I also worked for Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity. Habitat for Humanity is "a nonprofit organization that helps people in your community and worldwide build or improve a place they can call home."

Housing is a building block of society and a fundamental human right. Have you seen tents pop up in your city like this below?

When I lived in Minneapolis, I saw more homeless living in tents due to the pandemic and lack of affordable housing. Walking and biking through the city and seeing the housing encampments was disheartening, especially in frigid winter.

There is a long way to go, but as this MPR article headline states, "Minneapolis city officials seek effective, humane way to address unsheltered in camps." Fortunately, Minneapolis is doing creative housing like this indoor tiny house village.

Photo by Max Nesterak/Minnesota Reformer

The importance of a healthy and affordable home is paramount. The United States Interagency Council on Homelessness states, "a stable home provides a platform for improved outcomes around employment, health, and education." Hopefully, more pop-up housing solutions will occur in Minneapolis and worldwide to help the homeless transition to a more permanent and sustainable solution.

Pop-Up Art

Art can help us transform, experience emotions, and further our healing process. When shops boarded up, it became a city of blank canvases through plywood art. Artists and residents came out of quarantine and painted during this time in history. Driving or walking through the city became like an outdoor art gallery. These impactful messages were seen locally and throughout the world. Instead of a harsh look of a boarded-up shop, the storefronts had colorful artworks.

These placemaking pop-ups showed the human spirit in full force, coming out to express themselves in a time that needed expression. The beautiful plywood art has been collected and exhibited, and you can find out more about this community initiative here.

The power of art can be shown in this photo collage above. Artists captured what was going on through quotes, imagery, and bright colors.

Power of Pop-Ups

As issues arose during the last two years, placemaking pop-ups were creative ways to inform, inspire, and involve communities. People have come together in spaces to transform them during this time. There have been issues throughout them, but hopefully, lessons will be learned going forward. Creating spaces can be healing, and if we open our eyes, we can see what needs to be healed clearly.

I hope that these placemaking examples that be reminders of how to strengthen our communities in these ways through pop-up placemaking, art, and housing and turn them into more permanent solutions.

During these hardships in your hometown, what have you noticed, any creative pop-ups to strengthen the community? Please comment below with examples to inspire!

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Be Builtfully!


What a beautiful commentary on the power of art and community during trying times! This post will serve as such an interesting record for folks looking back on the pandemic, and a helpful example of what solutions have been found. I found the pop-up housing and indoor villages especially interesting, and hope more cities and towns in need of solutions like this can find inspiration from it!


Jessica Dreischmeier
Jessica Dreischmeier

beautiful job! you really captured the feeling of each space through such great photos!

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