This project explores the phenomenon of temporary uses of vacant and abandoned urban spaces as they unfold in the context of Latin America. Delving into online arenas, following several cases, and applying the diverse analytic methods of narrative inquiry, the project aims to explain why temporary uses develop across Latin American cities and unearth their deeper meaning.


Temporary uses has been broadly defined as the ‘temporary activation of vacant or underused land or buildings’, usually through informal cultural and economic activities initiated by civil society, either individually or collectively.

In recent years, this phenomenon has captured the attention of architects and urban planners, both in research and practice. Although studies have found that temporary uses add social, cultural, and political value to otherwise undervalued urban space, often the economic value is highlighted above all others. Several cities have implemented temporary uses as a strategic, yet interim tool to attract future investments and catalyze urban development. However, when understood only through this market-driven lens, their implementation can often lead to (un)intended forms of gentrification detrimental to the sustainability of the phenomenon itself, the people using these spaces, the values they create, and the diversity of urban life that these spaces provide.

In addition to the narrow lens through which temporary uses are viewed in practice, academic research has also failed to broaden our comprehension of this phenomenon by focusing only on Europe and the United States. Although temporary uses have become a global phenomenon, little attention has been given to temporary uses unfolding in other parts of the world, thus rendering an incomplete understanding of them. Therefore, the aim of this project is two-fold: first, to incorporate cases from Latin America to the international theoretical debates about temporary uses; second, to generate knowledge grounded on the new cases to better understand the deeper meaning and value of this transient urban phenomenon.


This research aims to explain the meaning of appropriating abandoned urban sites and transforming them into different kinds of collective urban spaces in the context of Latin America. Inductive in nature and grounded on relevant cases, this project is motivated by the following research questions related to people, action, space, and context:


Who are the urban actors appropriating and transforming abandoned sites, what are their aims, what motivates their actions, and what is the meaning they confer to their work?


What actions are being undertaken to appropriate and transform the abandoned sites into collective urban spaces?


What kind of abandoned sites are being appropriated, why are these sites in a state of abandonment or vacancy, and what kind of collective urban spaces are they being transformed into?


Within which social, political, economic, and historical contexts are these appropriations taking place?


The project allows relevant cases from Latin America to join the international theoretical debates of temporary uses, which remains mainly focused on Europe and the United States. Inasmuch, introducing new cases from new contexts will broaden our understanding of this transient urban phenomenon.


This project is funded by  Tampere University, Doctoral Programme in Built Environment, and the Mexican National Council of Science and Technology (CONACyT).