By borrowing and repurposing materials for a Shanghai trade-fair stand, Alberto Caiola proposes an alternative way to design a typology typified by excess waste.

Key features

Bags of cement might not be the first ‘material’ that comes to mind when designing a trade-fair stand, but they provided Alberto Caiola with the partitioning for a booth for furniture retailer Van Collection at West Bund Art & Design’s 2021 edition in Shanghai. Since the cement bags were rented only for the duration of the event, they contributed to a zero-waste booth. ‘The challenge was to find a building materials supplier willing to work with us,’ says Caiola. ‘Fortunately cement isn’t really susceptible to getting damaged, and our usage didn’t affect its future resale.’ What’s more, the bags referenced the venue’s former function as Asia’s largest cement plant. 

Another material-reduction tactic – in addition to repurposing the illuminated floor tiles from a previous event – was to decline the event organizers’ offer of temporary walls to disguise the industrial site; instead, the stand celebrates the juxtaposition between old and new, factory and furniture. 

Frame’s take 

The design industry needs to start focusing less on what it designs and more on how it designs. This is particularly true for temporary architecture like that used in trade fairs, events notorious for their waste. Thankfully designers and companies are beginning to address the issue: Rooi Design and Research’s example won the Trade-Fair Stand of the Year in our recent Frame Awards, and a number of other designers are looking to create temporary structures that are truly temporary. Alberto Caiola’s project adds another to the mix, although the choice of temporary material feels somewhat ironic: cement is right up there with the biggest sources of carbon emissions. Perhaps, in the future, there will be bags of biodegradable matter to play with instead.