Here’s proof that a trade-fair stand can be striking, affordable and reusable

Beijing – During a three-day trade fair at the National Agricultural Exhibition Center in Beijing, Atelier Tree’s temporary pavilion – a showcase for TF.33 fashions – was a textile-like destination in its own right. The designers opted for ordinary, off-the-shelf materials – hollow concrete blocks, flexible aluminium-foil ducts, polycarbonate panels and square steel tubes – as both structure and decor. The sustainable result allowed them to slash the budget and construction time – that is, just under 16 hours.

The reusable, recyclable pavilion put the nobility of its industrial components on display, while forming a high-contrast frame for the client’s delicately textured handmade garments.

‘We chose the most common finished industrial products and construction materials,’ said Casen Chiong, Atelier Tree’s chief architect and founding partner. ‘These products are widely used. Normally, hollow concrete blocks are hidden within masonry, polycarbonate panels are used in greenhouses, and flexible aluminium-foil ducts are part of ventilation systems. We saw the project as an opportunity to re-examine and reshape people’s perceptions of common objects and materials.’ Fully exposed, these materials – with their coarse, reflective or transparent properties – imbued the pavilion with a strong identity.

Visitors passed under a pitched roof and through two courtyards to find fashions in display units made from square steel tube, the same material used for the pavilion’s structure. Because the courtyard fence and roof were clad in translucent polycarbonate panels, the subtle movements of clothing and visitors, as well as reflections from the foil roof, created a constant play of light and shadow visible through the panels.

The team literally wove the pitched roof – a typical Eastern architectural element – from large, flexible, 300-mm aluminium-foil ducts. The weave, despite its apparent heaviness, was actually lightweight. It provided ventilation, while reflecting and filtering light into the interior and over adjacent aisles. ‘The woven rooftop was the most time-consuming part,’ explained Chiong, ‘but making it, and making the geometric polycarbonate panels, associated the act of building with the production of textiles and clothing.’ The architecture became a textile, and the roof became ‘a breathing organ’ that integrated the installation into its environment.

This piece was originally featured on Frame 125. If you’d like to buy a copy of the print issue, you can do so in our store.

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