Pop-Up Arch

Spaceus pops up in East Cambridge, Massachusetts

One of Spaceus's pop-up locations (Courtesy Spaceus)

The pop-up, temporary store phenomena, began a dozen years ago when local, community-based associations attempted to deal quickly with unwelcome empty storefronts on struggling main streets. They have now become a cliché of contemporary corporate branding and a quick, inexpensive way to make a product seem “cool.”

But Spaceus, a temporary floating workshop in Boston and Cambridge, Massachusetts, is trying to put the local back into pop-up.

Photo of East Cambridge Spaceus location

Spaceus turns empty storefronts into artist collaborative spaces. (Courtesy Spaceus)

The creation of two MIT graduate students Ellen Shakespear and Stephanie Lee, Spaceus takes empty storefronts and turns them into temporary workspaces and information centers for artists. The architects created a membership structure that lets users determine the function of Spaceus, and then the designers used their skills to create a simple, inexpensive, and handsome walk-in space. The initial pop-up was located in an empty shop in Faneuil Hall, then the Roslindale neighborhood, then Harvard Square, and now on February 2, they launched their latest “hybrid workspace” at 11 First Street in East Cambridge.

Shakespear and Lee think that “many young architects are frustrated by the traditional mode of practice” and “are looking toward new models of funding.” Instead of having to jump into top-down design practices as young professionals they went out and found a design problem to solve, organized their own client base, and created a space to make it work. It’s not an entirely new idea that architects can take control of their agency, particularly at MIT, which has long supported “Participatory Action Research,” but it is one that needs to be brought back into the architecture studio. Spaceus is the current generation’s attempt to reinvigorate the model. If you’re in the Boston area, drop into the latest Spaceus in East Cambridge.

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