A pop-up public living room

A pop-up public living room

POSTED: Sunday, July 27, 2014 - 11:00am

UPDATED: Sunday, July 27, 2014 - 11:04am

By Jamie Gumbrecht- CNN

(CNN) -- When Eddy Kaijser and a small group of designers came together to discuss what was missing from their Rotterdam neighborhood, the discussion swirled around comfortable, homey public spaces.

Home is a place where people like to be, where they feel comfortable, said Kaijser, who founded design firm Studio ID Eddy. How could they take that idea outside and open it to everyone?

The discussion sparked the idea for the Urban Living Room, a portable installation that takes meticulously planned living room-style furniture from a mix of designers, covers it in durable, bright blue sealant and drops it into often overlooked places where people could be gathering: large, empty patches of concrete in front of buildings or squares and parks that people usually pass through just to go about their business.

The Urban Living Room is a collaboration between Kaijser and designer Bas Kortmann's Powerboat, a theater group in Rotterdam. It's an example of pop-up public spaces: temporary installations designed to make people reimagine the overgrown, asphalt-covered or simply dull public areas around them.

"You can pop up, people can enjoy it for some time, and then you go away again," Kaijser said. "They will think more about how their environment looks, what can be changed about it."

Projects like the Urban Living Room are also easy to slip into dynamic cities, Kaijser said. It's small -- about 12 feet by 21 feet -- and simple to set up. Although the designers have long been in talks to install a permanent version in Rotterdam, the temporary version doesn't require all the permits, maintenance or property negotiations that a long-term setup would.

But people aren't always sure what to do with a public space that emerges in a matter of hours. Kaijser, who earlier worked on a decorative, temporary green space known as the Flying Grass Carpet, said it can take a little time for people to realize it's not art or private property. Eventually, he said, people will settle in to read the newspaper, chat with strangers or linger over a book.

Kids are often their first, most eager users.

"If there are children around, you have no problem," Kaijser said. "They go for it."

The Urban Living Room first went on display in Rotterdam in summer 2012. Since then, it's been to Istanbul and now Madrid. Kaijser hopes the Urban Living Room and Flying Grass Carpet will make it to the United States.

"You can put it wherever, and people will go," Kaijser said.

Editor's note: The CNN 10: Better by Design series looks at 10 ways our shared spaces are being re-invented through fresh design.

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