Q&A: ‘Metropolis in Motion’ Booth Designers

Local Projects, Pure+Applied, and James Hicks Design worked collaboratively to create “Metropolis in Motion,” the magazine’s booth for this year’s ICFF. The A-frame structure—which resembles a magazine that has been opened and placed horizontally—signifies Metropolis’s commitment to opening its readers to the world of design, while the booth’s interior—with its interactive displays and graphics—invites visitors to delve into Metropolis’s multidisciplinary coverage of architecture, urban planning, and interior, furniture, product, and graphic design. Metropolis marketing specialist Kimberly Taylor spoke to the design team about the booth, which was also made possible by the generosity of Digital Dirigible in New York.

How did you come up with the booth’s concept?
We started by thinking of the booth as using the same communication strategy as a magazine, but in physical form: the cover (or exterior) attracts attention and the pages (interior) provide the content that readers and viewers need. We dubbed our design “Metropolis in Motion” to allude to the energy of the magazine, of the designers it covers, and of cities. We graphically suggest this energy with arrows on the exterior that link significant designs and designers—an energy that is never lost, but moves in cycles. On the interior, we allow the designed environment to move past the viewer on video screens that can temporarily freeze the action.

Describe the process of getting the booth from concept to reality.
We moved from the concept directly to numerous iterations of renderings, all with practical strategies for fabrication and installation. It was not a straight line. We had a number of meetings and numerous E-mail exchanges as ideas changed, evolved, and converged in reaction to Metropolis’s needs.

What was each team’s role in the booth’s development?
The design process was wholly collaborative. We figured out how we wanted the booth to function, and then brainstormed about how the elements could be integrated. As with most designers, we each have specialties, but we are interested in, and have opinions about, almost every other area. When it came to figuring out and discussing the design, there we no barriers, although when it came down to actually producing the elements, we each did what we know best.

What was the biggest challenge you faced during the process?
Getting the booth done within a rather modest budget, and pulling it together so quickly.

What did you learn from this experience?
Most other firms that win this competition are design-build firms, because they are the only ones who can deliver a built design for the budget. We learned that by utilizing a network of trusted collaborators, fabricators, and programmers, you can create an integrated project.

Why do you think multidisciplinary teams are better for a project like this?
Design these days is mixed-media, it’s always a digital-and-physical hybrid; without a multidisciplinary team, you are often limited. With a multidisciplinary team, you can bring out the best of different medias.

James, you currently are teaching a class in event design at Parsons. Have you used the experience of building the Metropolis booth in your teaching?
As one of the class projects, I had my students design an environment for a party for Metropolis Magazine. I told the class that I wanted them to design an environment that would be the spatial equivalent to reading the magazine. Their work was probably more of an inspiration to me than mine was to them.

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