Restoration work is by nature a glum affair. Not only does the work usually disrupt the visual and aesthetic continuity of the building(s) it obstructs, but it also warps the public space before it. Don't you remember your first trip to, say, Paris, storing up your anticipation for weeks on end prior to that long Atlantic crossing, Hollywood films playing in your head and Jacques Brel ringing in your ears, only to find the Notre Dame blemished by an unseemly graphic tarp that grossly mimicked the now-hidden facade? Paris would never be the same again (not that that's a bad thing).
Not the case with 2012 Architecten's temporary facade at the Stadskantoor, Rotterdam’s central administrative office. The architects were asked to design a public artwork that would span the expanse of the building facade while repairs were made and a secondary building we constructed nearby. They responded with a "vertical garden" comprised of stacked potted plants nested within window frames. The plants were arranged into naive arboreal forms, which were nurtured by collected rainwater. Aside from the garden, the architects also installed two basketball courts and street furniture to flesh out the new public square. The whimsical design, which was completed last spring, was commended by city officials as an example of how the municipality will orient urban change to come.