The paper explores FAB FEST, a new International Fabrication Festival held at the University of Westminster. FAB FEST combines creative architectural design with innovative digital fabrication using lightweight, recyclable materials. Teams of five or more students worked together with a mentor from academia or professional practice and over a four-month period designed and built habitable pavilions. The brief was to contribute to the creation of a ‘Pop-up City’, constructed during the first part of the festival, and enjoyed in a series of musical, making and other events in the final weekend. The project was a collaboration between students from the host university as well as from universities around the world, working with a diverse array of architectural offices, industrial sponsors, and parts of the local community including schools and businesses.
FAB FEST takes place in the centre of a great City, London, and participants engaged with a selection of its attractions in events through the week. It also however explores ideas about the city directly, and how they might be transformed through participants’ designs for what they imagine the Cities of tomorrow to be. Also of particular value is the international nature of the festival encouraging the blending and exchange of ideas between creative young people from very different cultures. The transient urban space that was produced then became a site in which to interact with the local community, who were brought into the festival through joint projects instigated in the months building up to the event.
The results of the project are discussed as evidenced in the pavilion designs and in the participant and visitor responses. The events were documented through video and still images as well as interviews with participants at all levels, and with festival attendees. The project produced a remarkable range and diversity of work, offering innovative forms and approaches to design and making, as well as creative responses to the idea of the city. The paper concludes with a discussion about the unique form of public engagement offered by FAB FEST and how it might generalise to other types of event.