Last summer, I found myself wandering through the massive crowd, amongst the many tourists of the British capital, following the flow of people through the metal piles of the Serpentine Pavilion.
Last summer, I took myself to an exhibition on Adolf Loos’s lifework in my hometown. And I don’t even live anywhere close to Vienna.
Last summer, I saw architectural exhibitions as I had always known them. This summer, I am (we all are) about to learn a new way of exhibiting. How will the design of architectural exhibitions change post-pandemic?
It is inevitable that exhibitions, such as an essential part of architectural learning and experience, will no longer be the same after a pandemic that hasn’t left a single field untouched.
Here are some of the main outcomes of the global-impact disease on the architectural galleries and exhibition spaces.
1. REDEFINITION OF THE USER
In a post-pandemic society where the free movement of individuals is temporarily restricted and crowds are strictly banned, the traditional concept of an exhibition is forced to evolve. When the number of visitors is drastically reduced, every one of the remaining attendees is much more valuable as a user. The new exhibition will need to be focused on a bidirectional concept: it will not be just a piece displayed towards many visitors anymore, but a piece from and for every single person.
Thus, the user will stop being the final element in the exhibition process and will become the central element of a post-pandemic design.
2. REDEFINITION OF THE SPACE
Just as the influx of visitors is lowered, the same space needs to be readapted to the new experience: safety distance is just a brief full of opportunities for a designer.
To control the flow of users, to avoid strangers crossing paths when they should be respecting social distance, the definition of circulation paths is a key tool. While this element has been in great consideration for the last century, it is time for it to play the lead role and make great architecture shine for its possibilities.
Why not take the biggest restriction and turn it into a carefully designed plan?
3. REDEFINITION OF THE SUBJECT
The loss of movement freedom is already impacting one of the main income sources for the exhibition industry: tourism.
Touristic activity is going to change drastically during the upcoming times, and so is any activity which used to benefit from it. As galleries used to rely on international groups to meet their target regarding the number of visitors, they will now need to change their approach and forget about internationally-prestigious showcases.
Instead, local pieces and national artists will be the main display, providing the industry with a solution to a globalization problem that has been growing unstoppably during the past few years: a forced wake-up call that can be turned into a positive change in these hard times.
4. REDEFINITION OF THE OBJECT
Not only the subject of the exhibitions is to change in a post-pandemic era, but also the pieces in the exhibition themselves. No contact, no touching, no direct interaction. A new time full of bans that define the new limits of the objects in the display.
ExhibitionsPostPandemic-Object-IMAGE-1 – Source: Trend Hunter
We live in a post-postmodern society; traditional means are more than outdated as we find ourselves in a permanent need for more and different ideas. In a context where everything is already imagined, new sensorial and interactive experiences make a difference and generate value. Now that most of the senses are not allowed to be involved and only sight is safe, the exhibition goes back to the very start: an object to be seen.
How will artists and designers deal with this holdback while still expected to create uniqueness?
5. REDEFINITION OF THE MATERIALITY
Hygiene is a matter of social awareness right now, a concept in everyone’s mind; and art is a reflection of society, no more. How can architecture, as an artistic discipline, research, and explore this? Is hygienic architecture a new concept?
Galleries are hands down the best place to start trying. There are no boundaries in the experimental attempts, and both exhibitions and space can be a part of it: virus-resistant textile materials for a canvas that won’t need to be enclosed, bacterial-proof metal handrails that will let people walk safely… Every material can be explored as a possible answer to the post-pandemic challenges.
6. REDEFINITION OF THE CHANNEL
As globalization decreases, digitization compensates for the loss of accessibility.
Physical channels have been completely blocked for the past few months, and will only start recovering at a slow path. However, digital options have remained open through the harsh times, making art accessible to everyone at a time where the whole world was united in their need for entertainment.
Now that this industry is facing an income fall from physical visits, online channels offer a greater opportunity than ever before for any galleries to reach new audiences. Digital design processes will serve digital products to open new doors that didn’t exist in a pre-pandemic context.