World Architecture Festival Exhibition London

Merit Award 2016

The inaugural World Architecture Festival (WAF) London event was held at the Ambika P3 space at Westminster University in June 2015.

The client’s brief was to design and establish a branded environment and event design that would serve as a satellite event to the main WAF Festival in Singapore. This new event was a chance to showcase all of the entries for this year’s WAF Awards in a new city, with 375 projects displayed in total.

The design not only needed to respond to the vast quantity of submissions and the variety of categories, but also to consider modularity and ease of production and installation. The final design was produced with sustainability in mind, to be flat-packed and shipped around the world for subsequent spin-off events.

Populous Activate’s creative concept was borne out of the essence of the brand, taking it to its furthest possible expression within the constraints of the brief. Set within a huge former concrete testing facility, the design needed to respond to the spaciousness and industrial qualities of the space.

Setting the scene with theatrical impact, the exhibition was split into two areas: the gallery and the exhibition spaces. Upon arrival, the visitor entered a 15m-high space, which was primarily kept dark.

Inspired by the purity of WAF’s brand form—a simple but typographically rich “W” letterform—Populous Activate created an architectural structure comprised of 131 interlocking Ws made of honeycomb cardboard, a nod to the Eames House of Cards. The 8m-high sculpture/structure brought the WAF brand to life in a striking display illuminated by spotlights. The structure became the WAF event’s focal point and an iconographic media backdrop to the speakers’ area and performance space.

The ancillary gallery space was a low-ceilinged area that was, in contrast, very brightly lit. The display area of all 375 shortlisted entries for the festival was divided into future projects and completed projects, in over 30 categories.

Submissions were printed onto Tyvek sheets and attached to the steel ceiling with magnets, creating the impression that they were floating within the space. The submissions were spaced equally, with no prescribed route through the

sequence. This brought a new experience of lightness and the sense of being afloat to the exhibition, inviting visitors to navigate as if meandering in a forest of sheets.

The event was covered and reported in numerous publications, including Esquire, Building Construction Online, Grand Designs Magazine, Architect’s Journal, Architectural Review, Arch Daily, Architectural Digest, The Plan, Online INEX – all focusing on the design of the event. Plans to extend the design concept across multiple global satellite events are underway with the client.

Jury Comments: 

"Purity of form and color make this exhibition sing. The minimalist approach to the exhibition and use of the brand form to create the central structure is incredibly impactful and elegant."

"Profoundly simple, visually captivating and utterly functional. Here, a single letterform serves not only as a successful mark of identity but also as the material basis for space definition. The result is all about light—both physically and emotionally."



Design Firms: 

Populous (Activate Studio)


World Architecture Festival

Project Area: 

14,000 sq ft

Open Date: 

June 2015

Project Budget: 


Photo Credits: 

Populous Activate

Design Team: 

Nicholas Reynolds (senior principal); Simon Borg (associate principal, creative director); Aaron Richardson (design lead); Julia Petretta (senior designer and coordinator); Tom Sweeney (product designer); Mark Henderson (model maker); Alex Dale, Nigel Cockrell (artwork)


Wimpole Road Consultants (production consultant); White Light Ltd. (lighting consultant)


Willow graphics (fabrication and installation)

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