by Pui-Yi Kong
The aim of People’s Canopy is to encourage exchange and new (visual) connections between the university and the city center, using a two-story high, expandable red roof-structure on bicycle wheels. The canopies, designed and produced in Beijing, open like an accordion and when placed behind each other, they stretch the entire length of the street. The design refers to the typical canopies that are used in Southern China by small businesses such as restaurants and cafes, who use them to expand their space into parking spaces and sidewalks.
The canopies are ‘cycled’ by citizens and volunteering students of the university, parading through the streets in the city of Preston and moving from one location to another. Apart from creating exchange and connection between two locations, the canopies are also acting as a temporary meeting space for the city. When arrived at the location, the canopy installation hosts several events like Preston Pride, Lancanshire Encounters Festival and Burlesque, and other types of gatherings, performances, art expositions and workshops.
After Preston, the People’s Canopy moved to Hong Kong to take part in the Biennale of Urbanism and Architecture 2015/2016, “an apt location to highlight the historic and cultural ties between these two parts of the world”, says PAO main architect James Shen. The canopies were installed in Kowloon Park where they supported cultural events.
The People’s Canopy effectively engages citizens in both the installment process as well as the actual usage of the canopies as a meeting place. While cycling through the streets, this unique piece of mobile architecture becomes visible along the entire route between the arrival and departing location, reaching a wide audience. The more people, the more fun!