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At this year’s Clerkenwell Design Week, there will be no fewer than eight venues to explore – and half of them will be temporary. Katie Treggiden looks at the purpose of the pop-up pavilion.

With a legacy dating back to The Great Exhibition of 1851, world’s fairs, or “expos”, have long called on nations to come together and show their wares in a pop-up pavilion. Over the years, these fairs have evolved from showcases of industrial technology to showcases of cultural heritage, and then showcases of national identity. Today’s expos combine all three.

Inevitably, the temporary structures built by the participating countries have evolved, too. At Expo 2000 Hanover, the average investment was €12 million per pavilion. The Dutch spent €35 million; but this was well worth it, as they estimated a return of €350 million in revenues. The most recent Expo took place in Milan last year; the next one is scheduled for 2020 in Dubai. No doubt, the latter will demonstrate the full potential of the modern-day, cutting edge, architecturally designed pavilion.

Temporary structures are not just for world’s fairs, of course. They are an increasingly practical solution for all sorts of public events. After all, these are the days of pop-up shops, pop-up restaurants, pop-up cinemas, you name it.

Trade shows, naturally, have gone down this route, partly encouraged by the closure of exhibition centres such as Earl’s Court. For Clerkenwell Design Week this year, with the Farmiloe Building in St John Street no longer available, temporary structures seemed the obvious answer.

“Clerkenwell Design Week reflects the area of Clerkenwell,” says show director William Knight. “This means not just its creative community and local history, but also its real- estate realities. It’s tough securing large-scale temporary space in central London – just ask any company looking for a showroom here. We’re lucky to have some great venues that visitors already know, including St James’ Church and The House of Detention. In addition, we are building a number of temporary structures. We’ll have eight exhibition sites in total, and we’re designing four of them.”

Knight has commissioned up-and-coming local architecture firm OMMX to create a “masterplan” for the 2016 show. Events will take place along a “spine”,running from Smithfield Market to Spa Fields Park, encompassing existing buildings, temporary structures, quirky street installations and more than 80 showrooms.

“The aim was to delineate an informal route from south to north, to simplify visitor navigation,” says OMMX director Hikaru Nissanke, who worked with fellow director Jon Lopez on the concept. “This will be reinforced by the careful placement of the usual street installations commissioned each year. We were keen not to be didactic and wanted the route to feel very porous and permeable."

"One of the best things about Clerkenwell Design Week is discovering pockets of activity or events hosted by local businesses scattered right across the area. Moving away from a centralised hub to a new spine running through the district will help to knit all of these wonderfully diverse events together and evolve the festival into something more cohesive and inclusive.”

The idea is that the show’s four new temporary structures, all built from reusable materials by specialist company De Boer, will not only provide floor space for exhibitors where it’s not available in the existing infrastructure but also help to create a sense of regeneration in the local area.

The pavilion in Spa Fields will be a large, two-storey one. “By defining a portion of the park in this way, we aim to transform it from a simple thoroughfare into a focal point, filled with activity,” says Nissanke.
“Hopefully, its legacy will be to highlight the park’s hidden virtues and potential as a vibrant centre within the community.”

Clerkenwell Design Week, sponsored by Renault, runs 24-26 May.

For information, and to register (for free), visit: www.clerkenwelldesignweek.com

 

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