Best in Category - Communication Design 2015

Melbourne Art Book Fair

Fold Theory/National Gallery of Victoria

How to furnish an 800m2, 13m high space, at an economical budget, with maximum aesthetic impact

The National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) commissioned Fold Theory to be the architect of the inaugural Melbourne Art Book Fair in May 2015, held over three days in the Great Hall.

The question was, how to furnish an 800m2, 13m high space, at an economical budget, with maximum aesthetic impact, whilst respecting an historically significant interior and minimising environmental costs? The answer was to build from recyclable cardboard and reusable netting, and sync the geometry with the architecture.

Design Excellence

Minimising waste

The NGV gave the exhibitors their flat-packed stand to take away with them at the end of the event, and recycled any remaining cardboard. The netting was returned to the sports netting supplier for reuse. The entire construction was assembled without glue or other permanent fixings, so it could be easily demounted without waste. The upside-down dome was connected to the netting by slotted ’hooks’ in the cardboard, and additional connections were made by bulldog clips that were returned to NGV stationary cupboard after the event.

Design Impact

Wielding geometry

Roy Grounds’ National Gallery and Arts Centre complex uses circles, triangles, squares and draped complex curves as its primary architectural gestures. The Melbourne Art Book Fair plan followed the zig-zag of the NGV’s walls. The hemispherical, triangulated geometry of the upside-down dome and its draped netting synced with Grounds’ Arts Centre architecture. The upside-down dome hovered above a central gathering space, and the netting increased the feeling of intimacy in the Great Hall, without obstructing views of the famous stained glass ceiling by Leonard French.

Design Transformation

Designing flexibility

The environment had to perform different functions and accommodate 40 diverse exhibitors. The walls incorporated adjustable shelving, which could be manipulated as the exhibitors required. The wall panels could also be arranged as three-sided signage totems. The walls of the informal lecture theatre were assembled differently to allow more visual permeability. The tables were square modules, which could be arranged in various formations to suite the smallest to the largest exhibitor. Stools were connected together to form bench seating. Cardboard itself is malleable, allowing for adjustments and adaptations on site.

Design Innovation

Making locally

Victorian manufacturing may be dwindling, but we still manufacture cardboard. It makes economic sense to gather waste paper and cardboard, and environmental sense to sustainably harvest local trees for wood pulp added for strength (the mix is approximately 70% post-consumer waste). The production of the furniture took place in Mordialloc, using a combination of 20th and 21st century technologies: die cutting machines were employed to fabricate the 340 wall panels, 110 tables and 300 stools, and computer-controlled CNC plotters fabricated the 300 shelves and 90 triangular dome pieces.

Other Key Features

Environmental sustainability

The construction system arrived flat-packed in stages, so a small NGV team could pre-assemble component parts in adjacent rooms while the Hall was used for normal gallery functions. The assembly required no power tools or specialist skills. This project is an exemplar of sustainability in the temporary event design industry. Cardboard is an ideal but under-utilised solution where functional and promotional structures need to be mobile and transportable. Engineered intelligently, it can be extremely strong, as evidenced by the tables that took the weight of many books, and the stools which withstand 200kg.