Presto, Inflato! Dumpsters to be reclaimed as "pop-up" public spaces in NYC (Video)

Department of Urban Betterment
© Department of Urban Betterment

Is the dumpster going through a kind of renaissance? In the last few years, we've seen these trash receptacles reincarnated as tiny homes, free public and backyard pools and as teaching tools for university-level courses in sustainable design. Now, New York City-based architect John H. Locke and his collaborators of the Department of Urban Betterment (DUB) has another proposal for the humble dumpster: to convert them into ad hoc, open and temporary public spaces which can play host to a wide range of activities.

Spurred by the increasing privatization and commodification of public space in New York City, Locke (also known for his previous project on rehabilitating the city's derelict phone booths into communal libraries) created the Inflato Dumpster, an "engaging street-level structure that acts as a mobile learning laboratory," which can host anything from workshops to film screenings.

© Department of Urban Betterment

Topped with a 28-foot high, distinctive inflatable dome made of reflective gold and silver mylar, the Inflato is a "shimmering [and] inviting" urban intervention that takes its cues from versatile "pop-ups." Lined on the interior by inexpensive and biodegradable polyethylene, it's almost like this Storefront Transformer, but for public space, its 2000 cubic foot interior and exterior reflecting local dictates:

We believe that the architecture of the Inflato Dumpster can act as a networked node of neighborhood information - using screens and sensors to produce constantly updating streams of demographic and subjective information regarding the local site - and then in turn produces a smaller constellation of satellite interventions created by locals and visitors alike. We envision the site as a hub for all, to create a gathering space where programs can be curated to the needs of the community.

© Department of Urban Betterment
© Department of Urban Betterment
© Department of Urban Betterment

Fast Co.Design speculates that these converted dumpsters could play host to "hack-a-thons, urban strategy demos, workshops, and film exhibitions":

It's of the street and separate from it, which, Locke tells Co.Design, "allows us to find and exploit street occupancy rules,” without actually disturbing or occluding street activity. At the same time, the inflatable quality "lets us quickly deploy inhabitable space as a backdrop for activities that are naturally suited to these same questions of public space.”

© Department of Urban Betterment
© Department of Urban Betterment

It's a bold idea that could gleefully and skillfully skirt the imposed and sometimes anachronistic limits of local urban planning regulations, and the Inflato is officially coming to the city soon: the project was recently Kickstarted successfully, and it will cost about US $3,700 to build the structure for five days. To keep updated, check out the DUB and the Inflato's Kickstarter page.

Tags: Architecture | New York City | Urban Planning