The Building Challenges Behind Pop-Ups

Saturday, June 6th, 2015
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Now you see it, now you don’t.

The “pop-up” trend is increasing in Australia, from short term retail lease opportunities in city centres and traditional malls, to the new construction of complete, temporary restaurant, bar and entertainment spaces. While not a new phenomenon, the concept is being reinvented as more and more brands embrace pop-ups as a highly effective and creative promotional tool, and consumers enjoy the wide variety of fresh experiences around their cities.

Anyone walking by Queensbridge Square in Melbourne’s Southbank over the past two weeks has likely seen the construction of one of the most ambitious pop-up projects the city has ever seen. Called The Immersery: Festival Kitchen, Bar and Raingarden, this bustling hub designed by HASSELL and built by Schiavello will be the centrepiece of the 2014 Melbourne Food & Wine Festival.

Spanning three levels, the Immersery celebrates the theme of water by anchoring three custom built event spaces on the Yarra River, including a floating barge bar, an open-kitchen eatery on the concourse level, and a cloud-like structure hovering over a historic former railway bridge.

For the construction industry, the pop-up concept presents an exciting opportunity, and a unique set of challenges.

Planned Spontaneity       

To the public, pop-ups seem to do just that – materialise out of thin air, draw in the crowds for a limited time only, and just as seamlessly morph into something else. A highly complex project bringing together the work of 15 different contractors, the Immersery will be built in a short nine-day window and completely deconstructed after the 17-day festival, leaving Queensbridge Square as it was before.

Strategic planning and programming is vital for any project, but for a pop-up like the Immersery, it becomes arguably the single most critical aspect. Material deliveries and contractor schedules are managed down to the hour to ensure everything is efficiently moved in and out without disrupting the hustle and bustle of a very public space.

Reducing Waste with Reused Materials

The short term use of materials carries a certain level of responsibility when it comes to minimising waste. The Immersery represents merely a stopover for a great deal of the materials used. The 1.5 kilometres of PVC piping used to create the cloud-like canopy will be reused for other projects after the festival. A total of 23 repurposed concrete and steel pipes have been donated from Melbourne Water for the project, and the City of Melbourne has donated a used barge which will be fitted out as a floating bar and then stripped down to continue its life as before.

Fast Delivery Afforded by Modular Construction

A focus on modular construction elements helped accelerate the construction process at the Immersery. Schiavello’s manufacturing division turned a portable Spacecube into a kitchen, manufacturing and transporting the kitchen in modular units for quick installation at the festival space.  The back of bar areas with display cabinets, signage and refrigerators were also created in modular units for delivery and installation.

Safety around “Live” Sites

Often positioned in public, city centre locations, pop-up initiatives must consider safety first. Built in the highly trafficked area of Melbourne’s Southbank, the Immersery has taken over a public space that gets passed by thousands of city walkers each day. Keeping conditions safe is the number one priority.

The pop-up project at this year’s Melbourne Food & Wine Festival builds on the success of last year’s Urban Coffee Farm, another exciting temporary venue designed and built by the same team. Live until March 16, the Immersery harnesses the energy and talent of some of Melbourne’s most exciting industries – from food, wine and hospitality, to design, landscape architecture, construction, and engineering – to create a unique one-off experience for the community to come together and enjoy, even if just for a moment.

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