Moorhead & Moorhead’s Metropolis Booth for ICFF 2005

This year Metropolis’s ICFF booth, designed by Moorhead & Moorhead, was inspired by the most natural structure in the world for a magazine—the newsstand. “The first thing that came to mind is that a magazine is, in a way, its own promotion,” Granger Moorhead says. “It has a graphic visual component, it has content, and it’s all in one package. We thought that simply displaying the magazines, which essentially sell themselves, made a lot of sense. We created a wall, like a newsstand, that would be wallpapered with Metropolis so the logo becomes the visual interest. The wall also allows people to take a look at the magazine, so that the content works creatively as well.”

Granger, an architect, and Robert Moorhead, an industrial designer, have exhibited their furniture designs at ICFF in previous years, but the booth marks the interdisciplinary firm’s first architectural foray at the Javits Center. We spoke to Granger about the booth, its development, and what it is like to work with his sibling.

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How did you come up with the booth’s design?
The starting point was a desire to have a structure in which actual copies of Metropolis Magazine were a dominant element. Our intent was to create a booth that took advantage of the magazine’s intrinsic graphics, as well as its content. One obvious influence was the ubiquitous newsstands of New York City. Our goal was to create an animated face to the booth by cladding it with hundreds of copies of the magazine—much like the walls of a newsstand—which would be accessible to fair visitors. The webbing wall that holds the magazines evolved out of a series of explorations into lightweight means of support. It was influenced, in part, by webbed chairs, like those of Jens Risom. In contrast to the more active front facade, the interior of the booth was intended to be a neutral backdrop for the display of the Next Generation Design Competition winners.

Describe the process of getting the booth from concept to reality.
Like most of our projects, the evolution from idea to object is the result of explorations at different scales and in different mediums. Starting in the early stages of the design and continuing throughout the process, we looked at the booth in drawings, scale models, and full-scale detail mock-ups. The mock-ups were particularly important for the development of the webbing wall.

What was each of your roles in the booth’s development?
Our collaboration is, in some ways, a refection of our training. Robert studied industrial design at Rhode Island School of Design, and I studied architecture at Yale. We are both passionate about the design and play very active roles in the process. As the idea is developed, Robert tends to gravitate to the details, while I often focus on the broad strokes. (I like to speculate that this is the difference between an industrial design and architectural education.) My description of our roles, however, is a generalization, as we both work back and forth on the design as it evolves.

What was the biggest challenge you faced during the process?
The main challenges were limited time and budget, which is often the case with architectural projects. What was unique about the booth, however, is that it’s temporal. Unlike most architectural projects, it has to go up quickly and then comes down after a relatively short life. With this in mind, we designed a system of panels that were pre-fabricated offsite and erected onsite, to limit the amount of time required to assemble the structure. We enjoyed the fact that the booth exists in a realm somewhere between architecture and furniture.

Being brothers, did growing up in the same household have anything to do with the fact that you ended up working in the same industry?
Definitely. Our father is an architect, and, despite his warnings and our mother’s efforts to persuade us to do otherwise, we couldn’t escape the pull of design.

Does your relationship have any effect on your work together?
Sure. As brothers, we have a lifetime of common experiences that we draw from, as well as a level of comfort that allows us to be quite open with each other during the design process. The flip side, which we also experience, is the irrational nature of sibling rivalries.

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