Two parts make up the design: the exoskeleton and the display tunnel hung from it.
The former is made out of timber goalpost frames in a linear array. They are fixed with L-brackets to the plywood base. A single plywood sheet allows precise positioning of the timber posts, protects precious gallery floors and spreads point loads. A set of timber battens connects the frames at the top and supports the display tunnel via a series of threaded rod connections. Same rods are attached to the tunnel’s sides but serve a different purpose: stabilise the hanging structure and allow levelling of the vertical display surfaces. Strangely, the frames are not braced, leaving the option for the whole assembly to topple over like a row of dominos.
The suspended display tunnel is the main design move. Made out of a timber frame clad in plasterboard, it is raised about a metre above the floor. This provides an eye-level vertical surface for hanging artwork and permits views in and out. From the outside, visitors can observe people moving and light spilling out. This animates the structure and invites inside. The openings also help to reduce the number of claustrophobia attacks that would otherwise happen in such a narrow space.
The white-painted, brightly lit, low inside of the display contrasts with the tall, dim gallery space and the black outside of the tunnel. This juxtaposition adds excitement to the experience. Inside, the visitors are forced into a close inspection of the artworks on display by the constrained environment — a design move, which would not pass in a post-pandemic world.
Creating new exhibition design in a gallery space that stays the same is a challenge. Same track light position, same window placement, same fire escape that you cannot obstruct. However, this design successfully attempts to circumvent these limitations by creating a scaled-down model of the gallery. It provides its own structure, display surface and lighting. As a result, it becomes untethered from the gallery infrastructure and its limitations.
This design is also legible. Exposed structure, surface-mounted fixtures, few components make it transparent in its intent and execution. It also makes it cheap and quick to erect — a must in a demanding gallery schedule. This typology does not generate income when the exhibition hall is closed, so the turnaround between exhibitions must be fast.
The structure arranged in a linear array is efficient to set up. Much like the Vardø Witch Trials Memorial, this arrangement becomes the key visual signature of the design.
- Location: Royal mint of Spain, Madrid
- Architect: Cadaval & Solà-Morales
- Completed: June 2013
- Base, plywood.
- Posts in goalpost frame, timber.
- Longitudinal batten, timber.
- Threaded rod, vertical for hanging, horizontal for stabilisation.
- Timber frame, concealed.
- Plasterboard, painted white inside, black outside.
- L-bracket, metal.
- Light, strip.
- Electrics, concealed.
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