At the Ethnographic Museum of Geneva, a temporary exhibition dedicated to the magical world of fairy tales uses immersive design to attract audiences young and old. The exhibition, Fabrique des Contes, finds a happy medium between education and engagement.  

Zürich and Berlin-based practice Holzer Kobler Architekturen developed audio and video installations that takes the audience into the pages of some of Europe’s most popular fairy tales, such as Grimms’ Godfather Death and Spindle, Shuttle and Needle. The installations focus on the production of those stories, their authorship and the various forms of their translation and transfer. ‘The exhibition design has a strict spatial division between illusion and explanation,’ says Tristan Kobler, co-founder of Holzer Kobler Architekturen.

In fairy tale scenes, the given world is the world of illusion

The explanation process Kobler refers to takes place on a maze-like path that visitors can follow; on this passageway there are six sections, each dedicated to different aspects of the production of a tale – defining the narrative, telling, visualizing, shaping the thinking and so forth. The ‘illusion’ section, meanwhile, is comprised of eight fairy tale-themed rooms that are left to be explored along the path. Inside these rooms, a single story is staged, illustrated and retold through a variety of props. The objects pose a simple, effective way of stimulating the audience’s curiosity.

‘Hiding the illusory spaces emphasize the efforts in creating the performances,’ explains Kobler. ‘In fairy tale scenes, the given world is the world of illusion, the realm of destiny. Extraordinary or strange things are common in these spaces, but nothing is explained – logic is lacking.’