Sustainable Presentation

Words by Oli Stratford, Disegno

Architect David Saik explains the sustainable ethos that has come to infuse Emeco’s approach to stand design.

“There’s a general atmosphere around anything that gets made at Emeco,” explains the Berlin-based architect David Saik. “You should be a bit more responsible about what you’re doing; about what you’re using; and about what you throw away.”

In 2018, Emeco invited Saik to design the company’s stand for trade fairs such as ICFF in New York, NeoCon in Chicago, and the Stockholm Furniture and Light Fair. “There was no brief about the stand,” he explains, “just that atmosphere about how Emeco approaches making. If you’ve ever been to a big art or design fair, you can look out the back of the building when the fair is over and just see a mountain of leftover material from the stands. It’s a stunning amount of waste and it doesn’t make sense.”

Faced with this level of consumption and wastage, Saik proposed an approach to stand design that could strip away some of the excess and wastage traditionally associated with the format. “Emeco is all about being sustainable and responsible in as many ways as possible, but there is an obvious contradiction with sustainability any time you make something,” he says. “So with he stand, we wanted to use as much material as had already been produced and try not to add anything more.”

To achieve this, Saik made a number of proposals that, while modest in character, represented a radical challenge to the way in which stands are typically designed and built. Firstly, he rejected the received wisdom that a stand requires bespoke flooring. “Most of these fairgrounds have a factory-like quality to them that could actually work very well for display,” explains Saik, “so why not just leave the concrete floor raw? Why do you need to put a floor down at all? Just use what’s there, because that aesthetic actually fits Emeco’s products very well.”

In this vein, Saik championed a pared back mode of display that reduced the need for fresh construction and material usage. Instead of producing bespoke display surfaces and plinths, for instance, Saik displayed Emeco’s products atop the Run system of tables that were developed for the company by the London-based practice Industrial Facility in 2016. This move meant that the only bespoke construction required on the stand was the production of a back wall to allow for storage. “I decided to look at the range of all Emeco’s existing production and I thought that Run could be easily adapted for use as display tables,” says Saik. "As a general rule, you just want to bring the product to the fore, because these pieces are strong enough to stand on their own.”

While Saik’s design therefore played into Emeco’s overarching ethos of reducing waste, it also proved that embracing responsible, sustainable design is fully compatible with producing a functional, fully accessible, and aesthetically beautiful final result. “I come from the museum and exhibition world, so for me designing this kind of space is always the idea of seeing how little you can do,” says Saik. “If I go to a gallery, then I want to see the work and not spend my time thinking about the space.”

In addition to aesthetic benefits, the move to employ Run also lends itself to the stand having a meaningful afterlife. "You can configure these tables and move them about to suit whatever purpose because they’re flexible,” says Saik, who will oversee the stand’s adaption for reuse at Cologne’s Orgatec trade fair in October. “I don’t think there’s any problem with using these stands multiple times and packing them up – it’s really all about not throwing things away.”

In this respect, Saik’s stand design for ICFF was both an exercise in sustainability, but also a confident statement about Emeco’s values, and the ethos with which the company approaches design. “If you have a good product, then that should come to the fore,” says Saik. “Sometimes a stand’s design can take over and it’s difficult to even find the products in it, and I didn’t think that would be right for Emeco. That atmosphere around the way in which Emeco makes products is important. Do as little as possible, and let the product come to the fore – that makes sense to me.” //

Read Emeco News: 2019

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