Momentary Monuments: Designing Experiences
Before doors opened at DENFAIR, while exhibitors assembled their stands, a strange formation began to take shape in one corner of the exhibition space.
Soft, scattered pillars were gradually corralled into line, creating a walled structure enclosing rows of seating made of the same flesh-toned material. This newly defined space is uniquely and intentionally experiential: comforting, warm and inviting. A purpose-built foam forum which would become the ideal environment for the architecture and design conversations to come.
“I think the Speaker Space needs to deliver a message, to give people an experience while they’re sitting and listening to these amazing speakers,” says designer Arthur Koutoulas. “The aim is to really place somebody in the moment, so that they can be totally engaged and tuned in.”
Responding to DENFAIR’s detailed brief for a visually arresting, adaptable and acoustically sensitive Speaker Space, Arthur worked with the team at Joyce Foam Products – Australia’s largest and leading foam specialists – to bring it to life. The resulting space built on concepts introduced in previous Speaker activations, informed by the long standing relationship between designer and material supplier.
“We’re proud to partner with DENFAIR and Arthur Koutoulas to create innovative designs and environments,” says Kevin Graham, national sales and marketing manager at Joyce Foam Products. “The Speaker Space has allowed us to showcase the adaptability of foam through forms, textures and acoustics working together to create a truly unique experience.”
“I generally work on a few sketches, and start the conversation by saying, ‘Is this possible? Can we do this?’” explains Arthur. “The team at Joyce Foam are extremely talented and knowledgeable about the potential of the material. Then it’s a conversation back and forth until we settle on an idea, and we can push the concept even further.”
Since the space is intended to display the hero material in its naked form, and foam density is indicated by colour, the palette is dictated by which type of foam would be structurally sound and formally suitable for the space. In the end, two different types of foam were specified: a robust grey was selected as the floor-facing material, glue laminated to the bottom of the main peach form. Crucially, the design also needed to cater to the show’s logistical and practical considerations. Given the complexities of DENFAIR – with every stand built and disassembled in three days – easy manual installation was required, as well as a streamlining of bump-in and out processes.
While firm enough to be structurally sound, the lightweight material lent itself well to the final modular solution, precision-sculpted using CNC fabrication. And at every stage, from drawn concept to completed construction, a relationship between the space and the human form remained front of mind.
“Keeping the same formal language throughout, we played with the idea of scaling up and down as needed, never losing sight of the human body – that is always at the centre of our design response. Especially for this project,” said Arthur.
In 2019, DENFAIR delivered its largest Speaker Program to date, with 35 architecture and design leaders featuring on 13 compelling talks, and diverse topics on the culture of design which attracted record attendance.
“Last year, we only used about half the foam. And I guess that’s to do with DENFAIR itself – as the show grows, the Speaker Space has to be designed to accommodate larger audiences,” says Arthur.
Working towards a circular economy where waste minimisation, renewable resources and recycling are a fundamental part of their production process, Joyce Foam Products is committed to environmentally sensitive manufacturing. Once the show is over, every effort is made to re-purpose the foam: built elements may be claimed for use in future installations, or otherwise transformed into building insulation products.
“Partnering with organisations that share our passion for thought-provoking, eco-conscious design is central to achieving our goals in this space,” says Kevin. “Innovation is behind everything we do – from our products and processes to the partnerships we form. Joyce Foam aims to lead positive change, and have found DENFAIR a great platform to do so.”
The 2018 DENFAIR Speaker Lounge was recently shortlisted in the Event category at this year’s IDEA, acknowledging the creative strength of the design, and the partnership between Arthur Koutoulas and Joyce Foam Products. This latest nomination, following two 2018 stands by Latitude Group being shortlisted at this year’s AIDA, also affirms DENFAIR’s greater purpose: as a platform which strives to encourage visionary design at the highest level.