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Category Finalist




Atelier David Smith

David Smith & Oran Day



Exhibition Design

Structures and Spaces


David Smith and Oran Day (Lead Designers, Atelier)], Designer – Isabelle McCarthy, Motion Designer – Johnny Brennan, Grafton Architects Editorial & Exhibition – Emmett Scanlon, Nathalie Weadick & Alice Clancy, Exhibition Structural and Spatial Design — Grafton Architects

Design Challenge and Design Ideas

FREESPACE – 16th International Architecture Exhibition (La Biennale di Venezia) — Supergraphics and Exhibition Design.

The overarching graphic identity for Biennale Architettura 2018 seeks to visualise and communicate the ‘generosity of spirit’ and universal ideals at the core of the curator’s FREESPACE manifesto.

The multilingual design concept for the FREESPACE identity visually references a number of historic, cultural, geographic and environmental antecedents – the typographic vernacular of the Futurist manifestos; the protomodernist structural innovations of Venetian opera and the distinctive columns and surface textures of the Corderie & Arsenale Venues.

The FREESPACE identity offers a suite of modular ’typographic stacks’ (that visually reference the environmental staining and textural contrast on the columns of the Corderie and buildings across Venice), to be used in conjunction with the FREESPACE grid (based on the format of classical Venetian opera). These elements provided the visual toolkit for the design team working on Biennale.

How the brief was fulfilled

The Giardini venue (which hosted the main international pavilions) presented us with significant “blank canvas” to interpret the typographic identity at scale for the main Exhibition spaces.

The environmental graphics extend and interpret the typographic stacks evident on all print collateral. As noted the **supergraphic** takes its cues from the contrast between the black environmental stains and sun bleaching evident on all historic buildings across Venice. The facade is essentially mirroring the Venetian landscape, the typographic marks cascading down the facade to create a multi-lingual curtain – inviting and welcoming visitors in their native language.

Beyond the Giardini facade, typography at scale was used within the main exhibition hall of the Arsenal – this long internal ‘boulevard’ was stripped back to its bare walls to reveal the original structure of the building. A consequence of doing so (and to ensure the fabric of the historic building was protected) was that there were no floating or partition walls to apply “graphics or information” all information had to be freestanding or projected. Working closely with the Grafton Architects team the typographic animations were successfully applied and projected overhead on the ceiling beams of the 300 metre Corderie.

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