Our team has also been exploring sustainability in design practices. It was in such a context that our cooperation was made possible. This time, we designed the setting for “Back to the Future: Breaking the Time Barrier” exhibition co-curated by Zuo Jing by simply using cardboards.
Exhibition space is usually temporary with a short life-cycle, and the exhibition installation period between opening and dismantling is also extremely short. For these reasons, a rapid, low-cost common method, i.e. the use of light steel keels, gypsum boards and latex paint (as well as other similar materials), is frequently adopted for the construction of exhibition setting.
The existing space is rectangular, which is about 40m long, 16.5m wide and 6m high, with a row of concrete columns in the middle. The columns, that have a very strong presence, are 40cm-wide each, and the distance between them is 7.4 meters. A lot of metal connecting components for anchoring are reserved on the columns, which seems to default to an exhibition construction method that has to wrap and hide these columns.
As the space is strongly defined by the regular columns, they can be used as the basic elements to create spatial order. Each integrated “X”-shaped wall divides the space around each column into four isosceles triangular areas facing outwards. Meanwhile, two halves of the “X-wall” in between the columns form an inward-facing rectangular space. These two types of spaces can satisfy the needs of dividing the exhibition into different sections for various curators, allowing for greater flexibility and orderliness.
Corrugated Cardboard and the “X-wall”
Particularly lightweight and environmentally-friendly, the material is also convenient for processing, moving, transporting and assembling. In terms of display effect, the texture and color of corrugated cardboard can match well with the exhibition theme, as well as the characteristics of the exhibits. Therefore, corrugated cardboard was chosen as the very suitable material for this exhibition with the concept of “zero waste”.
Mortise and Tenon Assembly
With corrugated cardboards as structural components, CNC cutting technique was used to make concave and convex edges, through which a structure of “mortise and tenon” is created, to form insert buckles of the cardboards. Taking firmness into consideration, boards with two different thickness (15mm and 20mm) have been selected, with a standard size of 1.2m long and 2.4m wide. Therefore, a quarter of the “X-wall” can be made by three 1.2m-wide modular cardboards.
Detailed Construction Measures for Stabilization
Corrugated cardboard is relatively light compared to other conventional construction materials. In order to stabilize the exhibition walls and stands, a number of construction measures have been carried out. One of the measures is to install supporting legs and skirtings. Inside each module, certain amount of space is reserved for setting a sandbox (existing props owned by Power Station of Art) as a counterweight. Connected by steel components, the overall structure can be further stabilized.
Rapid Production and Installation Process by Non-professionals
All the 320 pieces of raw cardboards used for the exhibition were processed into 2,566 cardboard components in less than two days. Such an efficient construction process benefits from not only the lightness of cardboard material, but also the non-necessity of using any assembly tools. Moreover, ordinary people can also take over the work of the professional constructors to assemble the cardboards with bare hands. It also provides great convenience for the following activities of material recycle and reuse.
The used corrugated cardboards will be disassembled and then reassembled and installed in different places serving the following exhibitions curated by Mr. Zuo Jing. On the other hand, these walls and stands made from corrugated cardboards can also be taken by people who are interested in after the exhibition concludes. Even after losing all these functions, discarded corrugated cardboards can still be recycled and reused up to 96%.
Using cardboards to create an exhibition space, the project tries to avoid construction waste during temporary exhibition program. Highly recyclable corrugated cardboards are assembled with mortise and tenon structures to form walls and stands for the exhibition. Environmentally speaking, it satisfies the requirements of “reduce, reuse and recycle”, and the construction of the exhibition space itself has become one part of the exhibits. Source by LUO studio.
- Location: Shanghai, China
- Architect: LUO studio
- Spatial design & construction instruction: LUO Yujie, Lu Zhuojian, Wang Beilei, Hong Lun, Liang Jiahui
- Exhibition theme: Back to the Future: Breaking the Time Barrier
- Exhibition venue: Power Station of Art
- Curators: Zuo Jing, Wang Yanzhi
- Visual design: He Jianping
- Participants: Bishan Crafts Cooperatives (Liu Qingyuan, Gui Shuzhong × Yang Tao × Tang Shukun, Zhong Yongfeng × Xiaohe); SUMMERWOOD Textiles and Penultimate (Xiang Gao), Tin Qizhen Gao, Didi Wu; The Phadrokbha Cooperative; Healing Garden; Wang Yuanzheng; Wengwa Rainforest Discovery; LUO studio
- Corrugated cardboards supplier: Kunshan Three Doves Paper Design Studio Co.，Ltd
- Exhibition space area: 661 square meters
- Exhibition time: Nov. 5, 2022 – Feb. 5, 2023
- Photographs: Jin Weiqi, Courtesy of LUO studio