Architecture is always around us, more so than we realize. There are endless ways in which architectural design manifests, and that gives the architects inspiration for other designs. One of them is exhibition design. Throughout architectural history, exhibition design has been an important source of motivation and sharing ideas. It can be said that exhibition design has played a huge role in the development of modernity in design, theory, and engineering ability. 

From time to time, exhibitions like the Great Exhibition or the Werkbund Exhibition have portrayed their importance in the architectural field. So, let’s take a look at what architects can learn from exhibition design.

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What is Exhibition Design?

In providing a short description, we can say exhibition design is the process of portraying information on various fields through visual storytelling, three-dimensional sculptures, and environment. It is a combination of architecture, interior design, graphic design, lighting, audio, technology, and other themes or topics. It uses a wide range of techniques and technology to develop experiences that engage the visitors to learn more about them. There are countless types of exhibits that take place temporarily or permanently, ranging from museum exhibitions, retail, zoos, sculptures, and so on. 

Exhibition Design is a great way to portray the local culture in different parts of the world. It is a careful and thought-out process where exhibition designers have to work closely with architects, graphic designers, content specialists, audiovisual experts, and so on. They begin the process by building a conceptual or interpretive plan for the exhibit, and then determine the most effective, engaging, and appropriate methods of telling a story. The process continues as they make a schedule from conceptual plan through schematic design, design development, contract development, fabrication, and finally installation. 

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Difference between Exhibition and Museum

It is easy to confuse between exhibition and museum as some people assume that both are the same. However, they are both extremely different from each other. So, to understand the role of architecture in exhibition design, we first need to understand the basic differences between exhibitions and museums, as it would avoid confusion. The most basic difference between the two is that exhibition is an organized presentation and display of selected items, pictures, or artworks, while a museum is an institution that houses ancient artifacts and other objects of scientific, artistic, cultural, or historical significance. 

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The Link between Exhibition Design and Architecture 

Ever since the 19th century, architecture has played an important role in exhibition design. Exhibitions present large-scale architectural structures, most of which are traditional world expositions. These are conventionally valued as testing grounds for technical innovation or sites of experimentation and production. 

The year 1851 changed the world of exhibition design and architecture significantly. The Great Exhibition of 1851 was a conventional starting point for the design history that locates the origin of design with the culmination of the Industrial Revolution and the beginning of mass production. The exhibition was housed in Joseph Paxton’s Crystal Palace, which made headlines all around the world. 

The Crystal Palace had extensive use of iron and glass as building materials. Moreover, the building’s construction utilized a technique of prefabrication, in contrast to the building technique of the age. 

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Given this relationship between exhibitions and architecture, it is shocking to see how little attention has been devoted to exhibition design in most parts of the world. As professions such as industrial and graphic design began to distance themselves from their architectural parent and establish their single identity, somewhere, the exhibition design got mixed up in that. The diversity of skills that exhibition designs require made it difficult to form together with a group of experts from several niches.

There is an apparent conceptual and formal contrast between the idea of the exhibition as a site of architectural research and production, outlined above, and the thematic exhibitions within art galleries that usually adopt display strategies more familiar in the context of art institutions. Exhibitions with an architectural focus are always a huge attraction to visitors, tourists, and even designers. 

Learning should always be a sensual and embodied experience. From exhibition designs, we architects understand that the experience of space is a holistic and relational one. Light, temperature, smell, color, and even texture, all have their parts to play. Learning is a sensual and embodied experience. 

As learners, we need to be in control of our learning paths, following routes of personal and individual interest, moving from lows to highs, from vertical to horizontal, from light to dark, from quiet contemplative spaces to engaged interactive community spaces, through doorways that allow us to make connections between our past and present, between outside and inside and take us consciously or unconsciously over learning thresholds. 

Lastly, exhibition design helps us re-image architecture; just as when architects design spaces, they hope that their design will encourage others to re-imagine spaces.  

References

Voices.uchicago.edu. 2021. Exhibitions – A Dictionary of Modern Architecture. [online] Available at: <https://voices.uchicago.edu/201504arth15709-01a2/2015/11/16/exhibitions/#:~:text=Exhibitions%20have%20been%20extremely%20important,%2C%20theory%2C%20and%20engineering%20ability.> [Accessed 10 April 2021].

Lake-Hammond, A. and Waite, N., 2010. Exhibition Design: Bridging the Knowledge Gap. The Design Journal, 13(1), pp.77-98.

Yang, S., 2019. Research on the design of characteristic space in exhibition architecture. IOP Conference Series: Earth and Environmental Science, 310, p.022062.

Tulisha Srivastava
Author

Tulisha Srivastava is a B.Arch student with a zeal for writing, reading, and traveling. She is an aspiring architect who wants to share her viewpoint with the architecture community. Tulisha has varying interests in the fields, which include historical buildings and the relationship between movies and architecture.

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