Urban Camping by import.export



Belgian architects import.export have created a mobile multi-storey structure that allows people to camp in urban areas. Update: this project is included in Dezeen Book of Ideas, which is on sale now for £12.


Urban Camping is a steel structure supporting four platforms on which tents can be pitched.


The structure was inaugurated in Antwerp last month and will move temporarily to Copenhagen next month.


Images are copyright Filip Dujardin/OWI and used with permission.


Here's some text about Urban Camping:


Camping is defined as 'getting away from an urban area, and enjoying nature, spending one or more nights on a location'. As such, the phrase Urban Camping contradicts itself.


import.export ARCHITECTURE (Oscar Rommens en Joris Van Reusel, architecten) designed a new type of ‘small scale’ urban camping. The mobile UC can be implanted in any city centre that likes to experiment with this new type of camping. UC is a place where adventurous city wanderers can stay overnight, meet other campers and find a safe shelter with basic designed practical facilities.

From 24th April until 24th May 2009, UC was constructed for the first time on the Antwerp shores of the Scheldt, for the Kaailand Festival exhibition on mobile architecture.

This summer, UC will have a temporary resurrection by the Antwerp tourist service in Copenhagen, for the occasion of the project OUTCITIES from 25th July until 1st August, to promote the city of Antwerp and its innovative policy in terms of tourism.

(English version)

Project description

Camping is defined as getting away from an urban area, and enjoying nature, spending one or more nights on a location. (1) As such, the phrase urban camping contradicts itself.

Urban camping informally and unexpectedly revealed itself in examples such as parents camping in front of a school to enroll their kids or Harry Potter fans camping in front of a store to buy the newest release.

A new interest in city traveling has sparked a rise in low-budget traveling accommodation requiring a rethinking of urban visitor sleeping solutions. Existing low budget hotels, but also contemporary youth hostels are a limited and often poor answer to this general demand  for cheap lodging in the city-centers.  On the other hand, campers trying to visit cultural city centers on their drifting routes, often encounter camping areas located in the city’s anonymous expanding outer limits.

IEA wants to setup an experimental process of research and design around this topic. The first results of this ongoing study where presented in the exhibition, ‘It’s about time Expo 2030’ last summer at the Designcenter De Winkelhaak in Antwerp. The exposed material was mainly focusing on analyzing the phenomena of urban camping and trying to relate it to other topics such as: temporal territories, vertical staging of landscapes, multiple readings and interpretations on urban green and their potentials.

As a synthesis IEA presented a proposal for a new type of ‘small scale’ urban camping, DC/UC I (2) ,  that was supposed to be erected in the courtyard of the Designcenter and tried out for 2 months by visitors of the exhibition. Unfortunately this was not fulfilled due to time limitations.

Now IEA wants to pursue this reality-check, scale 1:1, in the public realm. A second generation and more refined model of the UC is designed and ready to be realized. For the KAAILAND Festival exposition (3) on mobile Architecture, SK/UC II (4) is build on the Antwerp quays near the river Schelde.

This type can be implanted in any city centre that likes to experiment with this new type of urban camping. That is open to create a place for local and international travelers that are welcomed to stay for an ‘escape’ into rather than away from the city life. To create a place where adventurous city wanderers can stay overnight, meet other campers, find a safe shelter with basic designed practical facilities focusing on extraordinary vistas of city exploration.

UC II  is a part of a larger global investigation, repurposing existing territories for camping and designing shelters tailored to the urban environment.

For designing and implementing an urban camping

° UC is erected as a vertical growing landscape: due to a lack of disposable open wide green space in the city
° UC is a three dimensional stacking of campgrounds : it generates different experiences and fascinating vistas
° UC is a durable and self sustaining (=autarctic) entity
° UC exist out of minimum 3 and maximum 8 layers of camping grounds
° UC residing tents are always positioned in the open air on a hired privatised platform
° UC circulation is weaved in the supportive structure and restricted in safety and accessibility
° UC is seen as a successive structure : it encourages the personalisation of the place by the camper and allows
individual or collective additives to the structure - however no structural transformations are allowed.
° UC is a positive surplus and enrichment for it surroundings ( spatial, light, social, ecological, economical,  esthetical )
° UC respects the rules that every individual should be able to enjoy the qualities of light and sight without disturbing
it’s surroundings
° UC platforms are each positioned to generate social interaction between travelling users and its sedentary
° UC is a specific generic but could evolve towards a unique identity, it adapts itself depending to the surroundings
but is not a parasite

import.export ARCHITECTURE
Oscar Rommens and Joris Van Reusel
May 12th 2008,  Antwerp

(1) source: wikipedia
(2) DC/UC I: Designcenter / Urban Camping I,  Antwerp, june-august 2008
(3) KAAILAND Festival, Kaailand Zuid, Antwerp, from 24/04 till 29/05/2009, www.kaailand.be
(4) SK/UC II: Scheldekaaien / Urban Camping II

Posted on Thursday June 18th 2009 at 4:40 pm by . Copyright policy | Comments policy

  • srk

    But don’t cry because of the holes in the decks after I have ripped out my tent pegs again but I have a old-fashioned tent and I don’t want to fly away.
    It is still a cool idea!

  • glue

    ikh, I wouldn’t want to sleep up there!

  • Bryce

    The current influx of transplanted nature-to-urban projects seems to be, typically, a breeding ground for half-baked ideas. It’s nice to see a transcendent proposal with real implications on contemporary living. Keep it up.

  • chrisR

    looks like a zoo enclosure for humans

  • Pablo

    Wow, if this is considered a transcendent proposal, i’d love to see one that’s only half-baked. I think the design is unattractive, unsafe, and just kind of a poor solution to the problem that seems invented by the designer.

  • motah

    yep!!! that’s the future !!! not the first project to do a campsite in a urban
    situation but it s a good answer!!! come on to developpe another …

  • Ken

    What the @#$% is this?
    Looks like a goofy Tatlin Tower…

  • graham

    um no thanks. Why would you want to setup a tent in an urban setting, why would you want to do it 20 feet in the air, why would you want to have people climbing up ladders right next to your head? Why not instead make beter use of public land in urban spaces and use those for camping?

  • Martin

    That wouldn’t last 10 minutes in any uk city without the local chavs climbing all over it and burning/knifing/stealing the tents.

  • hj

    pure pragmatic poetry.

  • PJ

    I’m with Martin…you’d need the height advantage to fend off vagrants, criminals, homelss, etc. intent on raiding and pillaging!

  • Minimalist

    True camping is about experiencing quiet nature and escaping from urban-ville and its loud inhabitants. Car-camping is already a band aid solution … I can’t even gasp the concept of wanting to look-at or much worse, stay-at this urban wedding-cake-like (or putting-tee ?) concept.

  • Tatlin Tower ? are you serious?

  • stack camping is one of the best concept seen in Dezeen… even Starck , expert in stack chairs, dunnot invent this….

  • squeed

    yer, another piss take of the homeless.. im sure they wouldnt be allowed to sleep in it.. stupid idea..

  • thanks squeed homeless is a good niche for social market designer

  • Oleg.

    Wow…. Utterly, amazing. I’ve never seen something so… yea… I’m at a loss for words. Wow.

  • Djeek

    Funny — reminds me of this album cover from the Dutch band Ex:

  • Bonny

    The idea of regulated city camping is even worse then the idea to build disney theme parks. Urban camping is searching for places to set your tent. It is exploring the city. adventure. Not willing to be caged like a monkey.

    It’s typical to the contempory to present some weak idea, design it like a large Ikea lamp and present like you are the most genius designers around, but actually selling air.

  • Dan

    We’ll for me It’s not that bad. This is suited for those that have no time for a long travel to camp and looking for a super-low cost camping trip. The idea behind it is to offer an easy access camp site to urban people. At least someone made the initiative. Only, camping is more appreciated in places that are far, quite, nature inspired and wild.

  • Nice, together with the upgrade of technology and everything comes the upgrade of camping. Imagine we now have urban camping. Personally, it has some good and not so good points. The only thing I can say about urban camping is that everyone can freely go camping and there is no reason to say to it.

  • Socrates

    How safe is that structure as it concerns natural disasters? How safe is it to set that up in an area prone to earthquakes? That is in cities, countries near a fault line? Is it a permanent structure? Can it be easily taken apart if there is the threat of a hurricane or some some other natural disaster associated wit high wind speed? Good idea but those are my major concerns.

  • Patrick Toft

    Wait till the music starts and the tinnies rain down and the pizza boxes and leftovers start piling up and the piss leaks over the edges and condoms give it that home from home look.