Commissioned by Merchandise Mart to design an exhibit in the main lobby of NeoCon East, the Gensler team explored using design as a way to highlight the opportunities and responsibilities that today’s designers have to plan for tomorrow.
The goal of the exhibit was to promote discussions around sustainability and waste and to offer a point of pause and inspiration in the otherwise banal, dimly-lit lobby space of the convention center. To be sustainable, it was vital that the media be found in the immediate surrounding area, stressing green practices and the vast selection of resources available if we are willing to search for them.
After researching local collection/recycling plants and salvage yards, the team identified a local paper collection facility that accumulates and bundles locally obtained paper waste, shreds and bales it, and sends it to recycling plants. The team leveraged the raw beauty of the paper bales to create an installation that exposes the life cycle of waste paper and celebrates an often overlooked material in its transitional state.
The recycled paper bales served as walls, projection screens, light wells, and visual and aural barriers in the exhibition. Both monolithic and human in scale, the bales elicited varied reactions from viewers—from those who preferred to consider the exhibit’s themes as a whole to those who became interested in the intact details of the individual paper shreds. Projected graphics and fluorescent lights emphasized the texture of the bales and helped tell the exhibit’s story.
The installation allowed the designers to move beyond strategic exhibit design to express the extraordinary through the ordinary, at the same time representing the important responsibilities that designers must embrace in their daily lives. The design solution provided a fresh new outlook on sustainability, opening our minds to the possibilities that surround us.
“Environmental poetry. Beauty of the waste. A very sensible exhibition of the world’s future. A very telling installation.” “This is not so much an exhibition about sustainability as it is a project in sustainability. No ink is shed and no structure is erected in this clever design that blends projection and waste to provoke and inspire.”
James Camp, AIA, LEED AP (principal in charge); Peter Stubb, Ehren Gaag, Jason Neal, Norma Morales, Steve Clifton, Karen Hill
Flux Studio (lighting)
Vangel Paper (paper bales)