Exhibitions create substantial opportunities during just a few days of opening; yet usually causing a lot of construction waste. In late 2020, invited by the curator of DESIGNEW 2021, we designed the pavilion for 13 sets of furniture exhibits that lasted 5 days. Under the main theme of “ORIGINAL”, reusability was the strongest expectation of the pavilion design. Therefore, we sought to break through the length of the exhibition to expand the pavilion’s lifespan.
We hoped to find and transform an everyday material – people are naturally familiar with it, yet they can still retrieve a sense of novelty from it; after the exhibition, it could be recycled and reapplied to a great variety of venues. We eventually chose white, translucent and inflatable PVC block – widely used in toys, sports equipment and for temporary events, this product is manufacturing friendly and applicable for comparatively large spaces. Its prevalence and plumpness after being inflated offer a very amicable impression - during the exhibition, many visitors felt inspired to touch, feel and even hug these inflated walls made up of over 2,000 PVC blocks.
Each 400*400*400mm air block is suitable for people to carry and sit on; after rounds of tests with the manufacturer, we chose the pull cord internal structure, and reached the sealing and connection solutions. The inflatables were closely connected via pull rings, suspended by steel wire ropes and anchored to C-shape steel keels on both the upper and lower sides, forming a clearly outlined yet structurally organic wall of neatly stacked air blocks. Independent yet not isolated, the inflatable walls zoned and enclosed spaces that signified specific scales of different life scenarios for the 13 sets of furniture exhibits. The entire pavilion serves as a massive container, and its interior is a flowing space shaped by stacks of a homogeneous material, attracting the audience to get immersed and roam in it carefreely. Air, having been materialized, defined the abstractness of the space with its intangible, flowing nature. In this context, air is similar to bricks, constructing exhibition and public spaces, but overturns brick’s symbolization of gravity. Air is indispensable to survival yet nearly unperceivable; stacks of inflatables can be seen as stacks of air. By using air to construct the space, we expected visitors to feel their living spaces and lifestyles in the most authentic way. During the last two days of the exhibition, half of the inflatables were given to visitors as souvenirs for reuse – a way to sustain the life of DESIGNEW 2021. While the inflatable walls were being disassembled, the whole space changed accordingly, and the public witnessed the finalization of the exhibition. When the exhibition was closed, its staff deflated and stored the remaining blocks. Two months later, based on specific requirements and conditions, we designed new structures and layout, and reused the same inflatable blocks for the rest of exhibition tour. These blocks were also used for Friendship Book Exhibition 2021, product design exhibitions and other venues.