The Instant City UP006

The Instant City was an inflatable construction created in Northern Ibiza in 1971 to provide temporary accommodation for students attending the three-day 7th Congress of ICSID (International Council of Societies of Industrial Design). A series of brightly-colored, interconnected environments that housed up to 350 people at any one time, it was assembled on fields near the vast, typewriter-like Hotel Cartago, overlooking the Cala de Sant Miquel bay, where most of the congress’s events would be held and where many of the delegates were staying. At the time, the area was still a relatively isolated, rural part of the island. Since the 1930s, it had been home to a colony of artists and intellectuals who managed to maintain its atmosphere of hospitality towards the arts and the avant-garde, despite the efforts of the nationalistic and militaristic Catholic regime headed by dictator Generalissimo Franco, who sought to repress expressions of cultural diversity and anything not considered “Spanish” enough.

Floating somewhere between a circus tent and a lysergic installation, the Instant City was intended to foster socialization and dialogue through communal work and leisure, and to promote reflection on new models of sustainable, participatory, and collective behavior. It epitomizes the tensions and contradictions inherent in many similar art and architecture initiatives of the time, whose progressive, experimental goals remained by necessity shackled to their inevitable masters of business and money. Though clearly well-intentioned, its aim to foster “nomadic and mobile” values, blend work with leisure, and stimulate new relations between industry and society look, from the standpoint of today, worryingly like precursors to the modern economic horrorshow that fuses the worker’s personal life and job into one crushing block.