Human settlements are shaped to respond to the way we want to live for the majority of time and the cycles of life – the everyday experiences of living, working, and leisure, over seasons etc. But our lives are also punctuated by occurrences that are typical. These can be planned events like sports or cultural celebrations or temporary installations, or unplanned impacts like climate extremes, or security issues or even health impacts like the virus outbreak we are dealing with at the moment.
In order to marry these two realms of our settlements, the everyday and the temporary, we need to think about the way in which the occasional event influences our everyday place, from the physical structure, to governance or economics. These influences are sometimes planned and take place over short periods of time – like a sports events, unplanned short events like a flood or security issues. Sometimes these are rarely unplanned over a long period of time with a wide ranging impact. Each of these produces a temporary use pattern, governance, and physical needs that after the event are often no longer required and are removed as life returns to the everyday. This temporary condition, in the many forms it may take, is what we call ‘urban overlay’.
Overlay is currently most extensively used and planned in major sporting events, however the skills and processes are transferable into the wider conditions. Our extensive experience in major event overlay is transferable into the diverse conditions of a temporary situation when supported by the specialist’s inputs of the particular event at hand. If we are to make our places of living more resilient to these temporary intrusions, we must not only be able to respond to conditions quickly when they arise but use the skills of overlay design when we are planning new places. Resilient planning can no longer be just a single situation masterplan, but must demonstrate how reasonable occasional events, particular to specific places, can be planned for in readiness.