A show about concrete recalls the material's historical role in urban renaissance

Stockholm – In recent decades a symbol of dystopic urbanism, concrete was originally a symbol of post-war optimism and urban rebirth. On 18 October, a long overdue celebration began when ‘Flying Panels – How Concrete Panels Changed the World’ opened at ArkDes, Sweden’s national centre for architecture and design.  

‘Flying Panels', open through 1 March 2020, documents the ups and downs, and cultural impact, of prefabricated concrete building systems through poster art, paintings, films, models of 60 modular systems, even toys, cartoons and opera sets. 

The bright, bold-faced exhibition was visualized by Stockholm-based Note Design and curated, following 15 years of research, by Chileans Pedro Ignacio Alonso and Hugo Palmarola in collaboration with ArkDes senior curator, Carlos Mínguez Carrasco.  

Note designed an exhibition that engages both the architect-builder and the materials lay-person. Basing their design on the construction site, Note were inspired by the stark contrast on busy sites between the static structure and the constant movement needed to build it: piles of materials and equipment littering the ground and components swinging through the air. They also translated the virtuous ways that concrete has been portrayed in pop art and propaganda posters into the show's design and organization.

'We wanted to capture that utopian moment where everything seems possible and the air is filled with excitement and anticipation for the future,' says Note interior architect and partner Daniel Heckscher. 'For us, that moment in time is represented by the construction site, a place where you look up, change your normal perspective, and let yourself dream for a while.'

Note displayed objects, slabs and panels at various heights on the vertical plane and in a variety of organised patterns. Delimiting the show as fencing does a building site, they invited visitors to engage with the space on multiple levels. They chose warm colours and tactile materials to balance concrete's hard, cold, raw appearance and texture and to establish a robust contrast between the show's subject and its space.

'ArkDes’ historic exhibition hall is not easy to transform,' says ArkDes director Kieran Long. 'Note’s design creates a completely fresh impression of the space. To wander in this colourful room is like floating in the sky, with the concrete panels flying around you.'    



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