Plain Space Exhibition – John Pawson – Design Museum London 2010

Plain Space Exhibition – John Pawson – Design Museum London 2010 | The Hardt




Plain Space Exhibition – John Pawson – Design Museum London 2010. The goal here was to communicate the thinking and give a sense of the body of work, whilst also engaging the widest possible audience. Since engagement is facilitated by first-hand experience, a site-specific, 1:1 installation was conceived as a key element — the first time anyone had constructed a building inside the Design Museum. As well as the more conventional curated content of an architectural show, the design incorporated subtle changes to the gallery space itself, on the basis that the success of the exhibition would not simply be a matter of the quality of the assembled material, but of the overall atmosphere, this spatial recalibration would generate.   



The team at Studio Hardie, based in Lewes, East Sussex, has a wide range of specialist expertise from cutting-edge design to age-old craft skills. In this post, Hamish Boden describes the challenges they faced when creating the ultimate modern exhibition space using traditional skills. This project was a 1:1 scale architectural installation to host the Plain Space exhibition for British architect John Pawson , described by the New York Times as “the father of modern architectural minimalism”.  The installation space was both a location for the exhibition and part of the event and was based at the Design Museum, London, in September 2010.  Hamish writes “This was one of Studio Hardie’s first full-scale architectural installations, essentially a building inside a building. The difficulty with achieving a crisp minimal look is that exposed fixings are not allowed so all the mechanics go on behind the scenes. Another major hurdle of the project was the timescale, achieving the level of tolerance and perfection on a really tight installation turnaround. The beauty of having such a big workshop is that you can create entire structures, test them check everything fits and make fine adjustments before leaving the workshop, this can save days of site work.




Spending time meticulously planning the install is critical; the choreography of how everything comes together quickly, accurately and beautifully. We couldn’t rely on ‘off the shelf’ being totally straight so we designed a new system for making dead flat-straight walls out of MDF torsion boxes. You often hear carpenters complaining about using MDF but for us it was a rare treat.  We are used to using solid timber that shrinks cracks and moves.  MDF, in contrast, is a very predictable and versatile material. It was a real challenge to create the curved ceiling.  We knew that constructing the sections on the floor would mean we could make a much better quality finish than working over-head. This is where modern technology meets classic old-fashioned carpentry knowledge. To get the perfect curve we had some roof fins cut with CNC and covered them with a thin sheet of MDF.




Photos: Gilbert McCarragher and Marco Zanta

Project Team Mark Treharne, Chris Masson, Nicholas Barba, Alison Morris




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Plain Space Exhibition - John Pawson - Design Museum London 2010 Shadows Marco Zanta lighting John Pawson Gilbert McCarragher Design Museum London artwork art installation

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