Visitors to the 'largest event in England' this year will get a close up view of the Perspex® acrylic range within a material showcase at the The Great Exhibition of the North. The free, summer long festival is a celebration of the North of England’s pioneering spirit taking place in Newcastle.
London-based design and materials consultancy MaterialDriven was asked by the Baltic Centre and Ryder Architecture to design and curate a materials display within the framework of a 7.3 meter diameter Pacific Dome, a type of geodesic dome that owes its design to Buckminster Fuller. Over 20 triangular panels of Perspex ® acrylic in a range of colours and textures have been used to create the structure alongside over 50 designers, material makers and manufacturers with ties to the North.
The display needed to reflect the diversity, heritage and emerging innovation in the North of England through the lens of materials and their makers. Being manufactured in Lancashire since the 1930’s and produced using monomer from Billingham, Perspex® acrylic joins this celebration of heritage, innovation and on-going success from the North.
Local approved fabricators Bay Plastics also supported the project by fabricating each of the Perspex® acrylic triangles at their Newcastle base.
The exhibition – Materials That Shaped the North – is now open at the Baltic Centre for Contemporary Arts Newcastle. The Great Exhibition of the North runs from 22nd June – 9thSeptember.
MaterialDriven is led by partners Purva Chawla and Adele Orcajada who take us through their thoughts on the project.
Nested within the exhibition Idea of North is this geodesic dome with its Materials that Shape the North exhibition supported in partnership with Ryder Architecture. This curated display developed by agency MaterialDriven aims to take the visitor through a material journey into northern identity. Today, in a post-industrial future, the North maybe said to be pushing boundaries in new ways. Knowledge and innovation in the realm of materials–both handcrafted and those manufactured at large scale–continues to be pivotal.
Mounted to the exterior and interior of the dome’s structure, from ground to ceiling, are a variety of materials–diverse in form, colour, size, texture and indeed their source. While the facade of the dome displays a grid of visually dramatic materials, those on the inside have a finer grain and encourage visitors to look at them closely, to touch surfaces and investigate them.
Interspersed with the dome’s inset triangles occupied by such engaging materials, are thought-provoking questions that invite the visitor to pause in the interior space of the dome, and contemplate the identity of the North, and ideas concerning material futures. These concerns are a common thread that unite the many materials of diverse origins-covering issues such as reclaiming waste, structural efficiency, advanced responsiveness to the environment, or transparency and sensory appeal.
This theme ties in with a growing, global realisation–that innovative materials and their creators are key enablers to an optimistic future; and that ‘material-makers’ and their products are core to the solutions that best connect us our communities and that may indeed help us shape our future environment.
Stratified layers, much like the geological layers of the earth’s crust (which represent distinct ages) became the inspiration for the organization of the dome’s materials display. Spread across five layers–bottom to top–the dome’s materials experience transitions from thick weaves and carpets, to ‘featured’ one-off materials and interactive pieces at its centre, to colourful Perspex® acrylic, light steel meshes, and innovative paper, and finally to mirror-like reflective materials and light-responsive inks at its very top.
These stratified layers draw from the heritage of the North and the wealth of emerging materials that indeed will dominate its future, but equally, the layers reference a much broader concept being discussed and responded to in the fields of art, science, design and making today–The Anthropocene.
The Anthropocene is widely recognized as a new geological age–one that is visualized as a distinct and heavy footprint on the earth–defined and shaped by our industrialisation, technological advancement, and rampant consumer culture. Thousands of years from now, our current age–The Anthropocene – will appear to be physically distinct and identifiable, through materials evidence embedded in layers of the earth.
With this timely discussion in mind and the past and future of the North at the heart of the exhibit, what better way to make sense of our materials and their evolution than to visualize them in layers that reflect ties to time, region, and to the earth? This curated display aims to take the visitor through a material journey into northern identity and heritage while creating an experience that leaves a lasting impact on all those concerned with the Future of the North.
Image Credit - MaterialDriven