Sustainability at the fair. Starting with the displays

24 agosto 2021

Courtesy of Studio Andrea Caputo

The Supersalone is a wager. The aim is to restart the design system and to test an alternative trade fair format: lighter, intermodal, and above all sustainable. This is the reasoning behind the set-up, which for the first time has been “unified” to host all the booths and common areas: a modular, fluid and dynamic layout featuring long parallel partitions, where companies can narrate their identity and products on vertical walls or horizontal surfaces, both generated by modular design. The project has been assigned to the architects Andrea Caputo for the individual booths, and Lukas Wegwerth for the communal areas – the arenas for talks, the lounge areas set aside for business initiatives, and the spaces for refreshment, dining and exhibitions.

Lukas WegwerthCourtesy of Lukas Wegwerth

Wegwerth’s studio specializes in engineered modular structures. The Three+One system is a project in progress that explores modular constructions, from furnishings to structures on an architectural scale, for multiple contexts including décor, exhibition design, public spaces and private interiors. This research has been applied to the installation of the Supersalone, created to be dismantled, recycled or reutilized for upcoming fairs and expos. The project rethinks the display format of the fair, and above all it faces companies and exhibitors with a change of mentality and paradigms.

The Three+One modular system developed by the Wegwerth studioThe Three+One modular system developed by the Wegwerth studio

“We have developed a connector,” Lukas Wegwerth explains, “based on a very simple production method. A single joint can connect a variety of materials, including metal or pine plywood, which are the ones we will use for the Supersalone installation. The starting point of the project is modular design and a very minimal language, also to make it last longer from an aesthetic standpoint. The stimulus comes from the effective performance of things like scaffolding: they are durable, functional and very strong. Their limit lies in the lack of coordination of connections between materials that do not come from the same manufacturer. Here, on the other hand, we want the system to connect the widest range of different, simple or advanced materials, offering great freedom in the design. This is why we have identified very standard modular measurements for thicknesses from two to four centimeters, which can work with most of the prefabricated components available today.”

The shared areas of the Supersalone, designed by the Wegwerth studioThe shared areas of the Supersalone, designed by the Wegwerth studio

“In the shared spaces of the Supersalone we want to offer the possibility for companies to indicate their requirements, while at the same time limiting the volume of the materials utilized in the installation. Having control of the construction permits us to know in advance how the material will be utilized and installed, enabling us to supervise the knock-down phase and to program the process of reuse. Together with the Caputo and Boeri studios, we have envisioned partitions in chipboard without paint, with exposed bolts to limit workmanship as much as possible, making the material suitable for reutilization, almost exactly as it was prior to the fair. The goal is to shift the focus onto the entire process behind the fair, of which the event is a part, from the design to the dismantling of the displays. The idea is to design the before and after with the same care. Fiera Milano is the owner of the material, and for the moment it has expressed the intention to donate it, though we would also like to see the materials held in stock for future events, given the fact that we are talking about large volumes. It would be more sustainable to reduce the need for further transport.”

The modular set-up of the corporate booths, designed by Andrea CaputoThe modular set-up of the corporate booths, designed by Andrea Caputo

“Programming the reuse of structures is fundamental. One path might be rentals. As in the case of the larger stepped areas, which can be useful for the installation of public spaces. With our team, we want to create a sort of available stock for the next Salone del Mobile: those who are interested could take direct consignment of the materials in Milan, limiting the need for transport. Some of the smaller structures, like the steel stools, are easier to exchange because they are light and durable, and they comply with regulations for use in public spaces. We are thinking about sharing them with schools or other institutions. The modular structures of the booths (composed of chipboard panels, square-section pipes and joints) can be easily broken down into pieces for more compact storage.”

The Three+One modular system designed by the Wegwerth studioThe Three+One modular system designed by the Wegwerth studio

“The Supersalone is urging companies to change their mentality. The fair, the event, has to conserve its value as a meeting point and a moment of interchange, but it also has to get 'lighter,' avoiding the temptation to bring the entire corporate showroom to the fair. We need to work on more creative spaces, to rethink the format of the event, considering the fact that today, more than ever before, any excess – including the use of materials – is no longer seen in a positive light. We are at a turning point.”

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