“Muv”ing into the future

A MuvBox in Montréal, Canada.

The concept of a “pop-up” store no longer implies a flimsy cardboard booth selling T-shirts on the sidewalk. “Pop-up” designers today are getting serious. Nightclubs, bars and gadget stores are appearing all over the country — and then, true to their name, folding back up and moving on.

The Aqua by Grandstand in Singapore is a mobile party space. It is made from shipping containers, but the 500 partygoers it supports do not have to worry about tramping lightly — it literally unfolds to reveal a bar, refreshments, and a full audio system.

The Aqua is merely an example of this trend. Daniel Noiseux, an entrepreneur from Canada, started MuvBox, a company that wants to make this technology available to all. His mission is to launch a network of mobile establishments that balance design and function in a customizable, movable kiosk. But from the very first prototype, Noiseux placed a special emphasis on sustainability. The first MuvBox had solar-powered batteries to support the day-to-day operations, and recyclable materials were incorporated into the walls. Today, MuvBoxes are constructed from recycled steel containers, with walls lined by solar panels that power the interior lighting and “unfolding” capability. With each new model, Noiseux’s hope is that the MuvBox will move closer to the goal of gradually housing restaurants, nightclubs and hotels without leaving any imprint on the environment.

Some argue that MuvBox and other “pop-up” shops are sad signs of our touch-and-go culture. We value instant gratification. But in the case of MuvBox, instant gratification may not be so discouraging. Rather, Noiseux’s budding line of containable buildings is a testament to the direction of American innovation. With each packaged establishment he ships out, he is thumbing his nose at the first person who said, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” The playfulness and whimsy Noiseux folds into these buildings are welcome changes within the recent discussion of sustainable engineering. But the question remains: once the novelty wears off, will MuvBoxes be as good as old-fashioned, stationary buildings? It’s too early to know, but at least Noiseux has shown us that the green trend can be extremely cool.

So perhaps the next time you chase down the savory, greasy waft of the Caseus cheese truck, you will be halted in your tracks. Instead of encountering a white truck that spews exhaust fumes into the streets of New Haven, you will see a sparse, regular kiosk made from recyclable materials.

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