Live from London: Non-Stop Pop-Up

By Charlotte West / Published by Dwell
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I'm not sure whether “pop-up” is just a buzz word or a new trend, but the "pop-up" label has been slapped on sorts of events and venues across the British capital during London Design Festival. Ranging from Libby Seller's garage-cum-gallery in Brompton to a makeshift letterpress studio in central London, various galleries, studios, restaurants and other sorts of ventures have set up shop in temporary venues for the duration of festival.

Some of these with permanent homes elsewhere have taken over temporary premises to be on site in London for the week, but others, such as Seller's gallery, are built entirely around the concept of pop-up. Sellers curates her shows around the spaces she takes over.

Another example is the Bombay Sapphire Dusk Bar, which opened in May and will run until October 19 at Somerset House on the banks of the Thames. The Dusk Bar was designed by Tom Dixon, who was given the brief of creating a structure without physically attaching anything to the existing infrastructure since Somerset House is a heritage site.

For the Design Festival, the Society Of Revisionist Typographers (SORT) has set up "Maker Difference - Pop-up Letterpress Studio" near Carnaby Street, inviting visitors to try their hand at an antique letterpress. Another much talked about pop-up shop is Kiosk at SCP in Shoreditch, where the New York–based purveyor of "curiosities, objects and things" is temporarily offering the British public such treasures as American lottery tickets, Shaker onion baskets and universal drain stops (in addition to a whole myriad of other "humble, straightforward and beautiful objects").

While the format certainly makes sense in the context of limited-time events like London Design Week, it is also becoming an increasingly common occurrence. For instance Portland-based design shop OFFICE PDX recently gave up a successful bricks-and-mortar store and opted for a model based on an online shop and pop-up retail events. In a world where some of us can work from anywhere as long as we have an Internet connection, I can see why design-minded types are attracted to flexibility of the pop-up concept. Will the pop-ups stop, or is this just the beginning?


Charlotte West


Charlotte West is a design writer who recently returned to the United States after six years abroad in Stockholm, Sweden. She writes for a number of publications in the US, UK, Australia, Canada and Sweden. Her work has appeared in Icon, Step, Varoom, Budget Travel and Men's Journal. She is also an editor at large for Elemente magazine in Canada. Charlotte lives in Seattle with two Norwegian forest cats.

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