moving urbanely

woodbox – mobile exhibition proHolz Austria, Vienna

“woodbox” is a container-sized mobile exhibition, which can be transported without any great difficulty by tractor-trailer to urban centers in Europe. Although the idea may seem anachronistically simple, even in a time when all data are immediately available traditional platforms of communication such as markets and exhibitions are still relevant and effective. They represent interaction spaces in which supply and demand, product and people find their way to each other. Nor should we ignore the holistic perceptual horizon with which meanings, associations and suggestions are generated at a sensual level, without us always being aware of this. Communication means understanding. This occurs when we react positively to information and emotions and, consciously or unconsciously, engage in interaction. Designing communication means making use of these moments and provoking encounters, reaction and interaction. The “woodbox” is itself already an exhibit, a timber-built exhibition space that can be entered and experienced with our senses of sight, touch and smell.

The starting point for the “woodbox” in 2011 was the exhibition “Bauen mit Holz – Wege in die Zukunft” presented by the Architekturmuseum München together with the timber building department of the Technische Universität. The ecological, technical and design possibilities of the material wood were shown on an area of 600 square meters in the Pinakothek der Moderne. The exhibition was curated by architect Hermann Kaufmann, who together with us, was also responsible for the design. The show presented five current timber building projects drawing ecological comparisons with standard solid construction methods. 50 further examples showing larger building volumes illustrated the efficiency and architectural diversity of modern timber construction. The precisely made wooden models of the projects formed a central focus of the show along with banners printed on brown colored silk paper that extended the full height of the space. The exhibition was later shown in the Künstlerhaus in Vienna and was adapted for the 950 square meter exhibition space in the Martin Gropius Bau in Berlin.

As a result of the positive response to this show the idea developed to transport the contents in a compact and mobile way. For this Hermann Kaufmann designed an exhibition box measuring 3 × 3 × 12 meters. The task that confronted us as designers was: how to compress contents and core statements from an exhibition area of several hundred square meters to suit a space measuring just 36 square meters? The design envisaged a framework of timber sections measuring 10 × 10 centimeters in cross section. We suggested inserting vertical Perspex strips the height of the wall in this timber structure, printing text on them and lighting them from the back. These image media offered sufficient space for a concentrated presentation of projects, made an elegant impression and were informative. On the opposite side strong ecological arguments about timber and the forests were directly sprayed on the wooden wall. At the ends of the box there was an entrance and exit with introductory texts, labels and a display case with a model. Externally the box was clad with a vertically structured wood facade, impregnated in anthracite grey. Since 2013 it has been touring under the name “schauholz”, mostly in southern Germany.

Reinhard Gassner

“woodbox” is the second version, developed for the inter­national circuit. The label “wood“ is incised in an outside wall, accentuated by applying paint to one side of the incisions in order to create an iridescent effect in the lettering. This is an interpretation of the word-image brand “wood”, which Stefan Gassner originally created in 2005 for the European Wood Initiative. The association of the double “o” with the symbol for infinity is striking. It tells the story of the continuous cycle of wood as a material and its sustainable life cycles. Material, architecture and lettering harmonize with each other and create a pavilion with an urban appearance, as a sharp contrast, so to speak, to the rustic quality often associated with timber buildings. In connection with this medium proHolz Austria initiated a road show that for several years presented best practice events on the theme of timber building for growing, greener cities. As the box is supplied with power by a photovoltaic system it can be stationed flexibly. By the end of 2016 it has travelled widely: Milan, Bratislava, Ljubljana, Klagenfurt, Brussels, Turin, Linz, Aachen, Vienna, Berlin, Salzburg, Budapest, Geneva ... Even the arrival and unloading of the box at the respective location is a media event. For several days the “woodbox” then stands “in the way”, in the middle of public space. It awakens the curiosity of passers-by and forms a focus for various information, specialist and press events. Thanks to the presence and the public perception of the “woodbox” the added value in terms of communication is very great; the undertaking is rounded off by efficient, modern event marketing. In this case the exhibition directly addresses its messages to people who might otherwise have simply walked past it.

Andrea Gassner