Armed with valuable lessons learned and determined to go big or go home, Perkins+Will and GLY partnered for the second consecutive year to deliver the quick turn, one-of-a-kind Seattle Art Fair VIP Lounge. Every August, the Seattle Art Fair—produced by Vulcan and Art Market Productions—brings together the region’s top collectors and art from galleries, museums and institutions from all over the world. Simply put, it’s a place to see and be seen.
The Seattle Art Fair also gives P+W and GLY a chance to expand their creativity and test execution within time, space, and material confines. Erik Mott, Design Principal at P+W, said the VIP Lounge “provides a compelling challenge: create a low-cost, zero-waste pop-up space that can visually hold its own in an art gallery environment.”
The two firms, joined this year by Safway, InForm and Foley Signs, once again made the dream work for the fair’s VIP guests. After a few weeks to reflect on the experience, we asked representatives from both GLY and P+W to give us the scoop on the design and construction of the 2018 pop-up space.
YOUR OBJECTIVES LAST YEAR INCLUDED LIMITED WASTE, PREFABRICATION, AND A STRONG DESIGN CONCEPT WORTHY OF THE SEATTLE ART FAIR. DID THIS HOLD TRUE FOR THIS YEAR'S CONCEPT?
Molly Baker, P+W Interior Designer: Our goals changed a bit this year. The client wished for a VIP Lounge that was noticeably different from the past several years—hoping to up the wow factor. We knew we had to go big. Height, scale and limiting waste were our biggest drivers.
WHAT INSPIRED THE DESIGN?
Erik Mott, P+W Design Principal: We were inspired by the temporary structures found all around our rapidly growing city. With a design that wraps scaffolding in a translucent basket-weave scrim, we pay homage to the craft behind the construction.
FROM A DESIGN PERSPECTIVE, WHAT DID YOU WANT PEOPLE TO EXPERIENCE IN THE SPACE?
Molly: We hoped to create an experience distinctly different from anything done at the art fair lounge in terms of both scale and use of materials. We needed to make sure the VIP Lounge lived up to the art around it.
WHAT MATERIALS DID YOU USE?
Josh Lewis, GLY Project Manager: We used scaffolding as our base building material. To enclose the space but still allow light to filter through, we adorned the walls of the structure in a basket-weave mesh. The bar top and podium entrance were built from ACX plywood.
The best part? Scaffolding is inherently sustainable. Truly a zero-waste material. After dismantling the structure at the end of the fair, the parts are ready to use on the next project. The mesh is also reusable / recyclable.
Molly: We were excited to work once again with Inform, who provided all the furniture in the space. Every piece went back to their showroom after the fair.
LAST YEAR, TIME + LOGISTICS WERE THE BIGGEST HURDLES. WHAT WAS THE BIGGEST CHALLENGE THIS YEAR?
Josh: The challenge on this one was reality vs. intent. P+W hoped to expose as few framing members as possible in the final 21’ tall structure. Unfortunately, a free standing scaffold structure requires a large amount of bracing and thus, exposed framing members—ruining the aesthetics. We worked with P+W and scaffolding supplier, Safway, to reach a modified design the team was happy with, then provided P+W with a kit of parts for scaffolding and building a mock-up for review. We reached consensus on final framing components one week before construction started.
Molly: It was amazing how quickly the scaffold went up! Time was definitely not an issue this go-around. Understanding how to work with the scaffolding kit of parts was the biggest learning curve. The life-size mock-up transformed the way our architectural team imagined all of the connections.
Working closely with GLY and the scaffold team enabled us to create a structure that had it all: Grand Scale, Original Design Intent, AND Structural Stability!
THIS WAS ROUND TWO FOR BOTH P+W AND GLY. WHAT INTEL DID YOU CARRY OVER FROM LAST YEAR'S DESIGN PROCESS? ANY CHANGES TO INCORPORATE?
Molly: Understanding the site and program elements from day one was a huge bonus this time around. We were able to jump right into the design with a good understanding of all the programmatic goals and physical constraints. We’re looking forward to doing it again next year!
WHAT ABOUT THE CONSTRUCTION EXPERIENCE?
Josh: After experiencing the chaos that comes with any major event set-up last year, we knew what to expect at the Event Center the week leading up to the art fair in terms of logistical challenges.
For a smoother set-up, we immediately requested direct access to our space off Occidental Way instead of going through the parking garage on the opposite side of the complex. With the amount of labor required to build the structure in the limited time frame, having direct access to our area was critical. We were able to park the flatbed truck next to the structure being built instead of navigating a maze from the opposite end of the facility.
Overall, this year’s construction was better planned and much more efficient, even with the new challenges. Early involvement with all parties and cooperation made this possible.