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MA Eco-Social Design: Project 2 by Despoina Tzirou, Gabriela Miteva, Michelangelo Lamonaca | SS 2021

OIO. The booth that redefines contemporary trade-shows

OIO is an exhibition design project developed with FieraMesse BolzanoBozen. The proposal reinterprets tradeshows by providing a modular, reusable, adaptable booth, introducing a circular system in contemporary fairs.

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Trade-shows play a vital core in the commercial activity in South-Tyrol. Every year thousands of exhibitors choose fairs to promote new products or services and attract consumers. But what happens after exhibitors and visitors leave and the lights are off?  Have you ever witnessed the amount of waste generated by a three-day fair? 60 tons of wood scrap per year! 90,000m2 of moquette per year! What would change if we could reduce the waste, reuse materials and approach trade-shows with a different mentality by designing multifunctional components? Shifting mindset is the first step towards change. 

The project focuses on designing a sustainable booth for Fiera Messe. The approach, based on modular design, uses components which are easy to assemble and dismantle and allow exhibitors to customize their desirable booth. MDF perforated panels constitute the exhibition surface and wooden tubes are used to secure the structure by applying dry-joining techniques. Tubes of the same diameter but smaller length are used to attach the fabric visuals and the MDF shelves on the panels, avoiding any kind of intervention on their surface. This way the same component can be reused multiple times and serve different purposes. 

The life of the components is extended and the emissions from their processing, maintenance and transportation are significantly reduced. The elements can be repurposed through upcycling or can gain a new life by being recycled.  The proposal relieves Fiera from third-party collaborations, needed so far for reprocessing, transporting and storing the equipment, and fosters new connections supporting circular economy. 

The Research and Design Process 
The project presented here is the outcome of a long and demanding research and design process. We started by interviewing our partner at the beginning of the semester, in order to clearly understand their needs and the basic requirements of the project. They informed us about the current situation and underlined the need for a sustainable booth. So the next step was defining sustainability not only from their side but from our side too. 
Moving forward, on-site exploration of the exhibition place and visiting the actors currently collaborating with FieraMesse for the booth construction seemed necessary. We arranged a meeting with the technical staff of the company to show us around the facilities and understand better the space that hosts the events. We collected information about security measures, the condition of the infrastructures and took photos of waste materials, previous booths forgotten there and items that could possibly be useful for our project. 

In addition, along with staff from Fiera, we visited Walcher, the construction company in Appiano currently collaborating with FieraMesse. The point of this visit was to understand the procedure before, during and after the construction of a stand. We collected input concerning the providers, their interactions, the transportation of the raw material, the processes that need to be applied to them so that Walcher can receive the final components and assemble the booths. We understood better his part in the set-up of the fairs and realized all the challenges that we had to face during the design. 
Before stepping into the research we had to clarify all those challenges and explore ways to confront them. The project had to find a compromise between the exhibitors preferences and the technical requirements of Fiera, it should also be applied in an economically viable way and be respectful to all the environmental concerns of our partner and of our team. Apart from that, we had to find a way to combine an aesthetically appealing but at the same time practical design, without sacrificing the requirements, technical and structural, that our partner had initially set. 
Moving on, the desk research developed around the prerequisites that Fiera set. We started with the most demanding, the fireproof classification of all the materials and components used and the methods that could be applied to achieve this degree of fire resistance. The next one was the structure. We discussed about a self-supported booth that needed to include a storage room of 1x1m and apart from that the structure had to respect specific dimensions (2.5m height) but also provide freedom to adapt it in different booth typologies. The version we worked on is called “light” and its dimensions are 3x4m. 
Besides that, features referring to the construction of the booth should also be taken into account. The intuitive assembly and disassembly, the elimination of the need of electricity to complete those tasks, the least amount of labour work needed for the process and the ability to store all the components at the company's facilities were the focus points that concerned us a lot. Along with them, we wanted to reduce the type of materials used, find ways to extend the life cycle and decrease the environmental impact. All that should be solved without compromising the exhibitors' will to customize their stands and reach their desirable result through personalization options. 


The focus fields of our research were sustainability, materials, structure and case studies. 
As far as sustainability is concerned, we tried to complete the frame by finding information about the aspects that, according to us, define the term. We studied about the environmental impact of the fairs and the amount of waste produced, collected information about the origin of raw materials, the energy consumption and how a construction can be sustainable. Finally, the inclusion of the social factor and strategies that could be implemented in order to engage the local community were included in our sustainability research. 
The materials were another struggle we had to face. We wanted to include local providers that could supply us with materials with the right properties and fire classification or in cases the materials needed additional treatment, we wanted to propose actors that could take over this task. Our next step was exploring the concept of life cycle analysis and understanding why and how every decision could have a great impact on the life cycle of our design. To conclude the research on that field we mapped initiatives that offer solutions to the management of the waste produced, through recycling or upcycling. 

The last part of the desk research revolved around the structure. We explored projects with similar characteristics, modular, adaptable and self-supported, and we enriched the analysis of the case studies with examples of dry-joining techniques, ways to facilitate the user during the assembly and disassembly phase and how other designs, related to exhibitions or commercial spaces,  used light. 
After completing the discovering and defining steps we finalized our design brief and used it as the starting point of the developing phase. Ideation consisted of brainstorming and sketching every idea we could come up with, simple or complicated. At this stage we tried to visualise as many alternatives as possible and explore their strongest and weakest points. The sketches helped us share with our partner our first thoughts and communicate in a clear way our vision. After the first feedback we narrowed down our options and focused on developing as much as possible the idea that caught the attention and had the most possibilities. 
Two weeks after that, we read and presented in class the paper “From Designing to Co-
Designing to Collective Dreaming: Three Slices in Time” by Liz Sanders and Pieter Jan Stappers. An important milestone for our project that generated the idea of a co-design workshop with our partner. We created cardboard mock-ups, in smaller scale, of the components we had designed so far and organised a workshop with six people of the company, including two members of the administration, two members of the technical department and two representatives of the exhibitors. They were asked to interact with the probes and explore all the possible ways they could think of connecting them and producing a stand prototype. We had multiple rounds where the groups alternated and we also participated by joining the groups. During the process we discussed the positive and negative aspects and what was missing from the proposal. The workshop also had a “participatory action research” character since the participants were asked to find ways to solve the problems they faced during the construction of the mock-up booth. 
The continuum of this workshop was to start building the affinity diagram that was later enriched by two similar workshops we organized with the social interaction design class and the class of design and production. The feedback helped us evolve the proposal and improve the design after consulting the workshop experts of the design faculty and also professors from other faculties of the university,  specialized in exhibition design and wood engineering. After some final adjustments we finalized the design and moved forward by contacting providers and conducting the cost analysis. 
Proceeding to the final steps, we focused on the prototyping and the right tools and techniques we had to use since everything had to be constructed by hand. After two days of processing the components and making the pieces, the booth was ready for set-up. This moment allowed us to realize the amount of time needed for completing the assembly task as well as to test aspects like statics and resistance and make sure the proposal is actually feasible. After evaluating it we proceed with the iteration of some details of the structure. The conclusion of the project arrived with the documentation of the assembly and the creation of a set-up video guide. 


Despoina Tzirou, Gabriela Miteva, Michelangelo Lamonaca 

Teaching Team:
David Calas (Object–Spaces–Services)
Kris Krois (Communication–Interaction–Services)
Secil Ugur Yavuz (Design Research)
Marie Beuthel (Social Interaction Design)

FieraMesse BolzanoBozen: 
Thomas Mur (Director) 
Sabine von Pretz (Assistant General Manager & Projects) 
Christian Micheli (Head of Technical & Event Services) 
Mattia Vecchioni (Technical & Event Services) 
Emilia Taraboi (Brand Manager) 
Anna Baldo (Projects Manager) 

Supporters  & Stakeholders:
Thomas Moosbrugger (Mechanics of structures - Wood Engineering) 
Eva Bauer (Materials workshop) 
Curzio Castellan (Photography workshop) 
Valentin Riegler (Carpentry workshop) 
Markus Fischnaller (Carpentry Workshop) 
Roland Verber (Digital modelling workshop) 
Cristian Micheloni (Lighting support) 
Antonio Lamonaca (Lighting support) 
Aart van Bezooijen (Life cycle assessment) 
Davide Ferrando (Exhibit design)