As part of an internal design competition for the Master’s program Exhibition Design, we got the chance to put a concept into action. The client: Himal Hemp. The assignment: a pop-up store. But not only that: a model enabling quick assembly and disassembly, developed with sustainable materials, flexible in use, offering informational as well as exhibition space and, of course, aesthetically pleasing was asked. Ideally, the design should also be within the given budget.

The first impression stays

At the first meeting and during our visit to the shop of Himal Hemp, we realized that here, different influences meet. Keywords probably best describe what we noticed: variety, improvisation, attention to detail, lack of space, woven materials, colorfulness and unicorns. Wait what? Unicorns? That’s right, even unicorns. With this first impression, we plunged into concept planning.

From the thought ….

After an intensive examination of the order situation, we could hardly stop our flow of ideas. Anyways, one thing was clear to us relatively quickly: manual labor, fairness, organic production, biological materials, recycling – the intentions of our client Himal Hemp should be reflected in our design. However, we wanted to go beyond that and create something that would symbolize three key points:

… of a loom

I. The visual design should be unique. Unique like a unicorn. We wanted to create a recognizable design that fits the needs of our client and attracts attention at the same time. For that we were inspired by looms. These are not only an eye-catcher by their appearance, but also refer to the production of Himal Hemp products in Nepal. Nevertheless, the design should not put the products on show, but rather support them in their appearance. The choice of material was thus quickly clear: light spruce (from domestic production) and organic cotton cords in white colour.

… of a network

II. The cotton cords, which are represented in all our design elements, symbolize a reference to our second essential concept idea: the idea of a network. Himal Hemp operates internationally and builds bridges between Nepal and Austria, trying to ensure a better life for all through community and social thinking. Development work is an integral part of the mission statement of Himal Hemp. This aspect should not be missing in our design and was picked up by the individually networked cords.

… and of a paravent

III. We quickly realized that a flexible and variable usability of the pop-up store would be best achieved through an individual paravent consisting of different modules. This should allow the elements to be linked together differently, while offering the option to extend the design as needed. Even uncomplicated transport, as well as rapid assembly and disassembly of the pop-up store should be ensured by that.

… to implementation

Then we started to bolt and saw. We sweated, we planned, we ventured into unknown territory. The tools and equipment we found strange at the beginning became close confidants and we are now allowed to be proud of the wide knowledge we gathered while working. We were regulars at DIY store and collected discounts. Every now and then we scratched a nervous breakdown. But thanks to the energetic support of our supervisors and with the help of a loooooot of coffee, problems were quickly solved. At this point we want to especially thank our teachers Sigrid Bürstmayr, Anke Strittmatter, Jochen Martin, Tomislav Bobinec and Karl Stocker for their support. But after days of workshop occupation and intensive work, we could finally breathe again. We had milled the last piece of spruce wood, drawn the last interface, sunk the last screw and stretched the last cotton cord.

“Together we grow”: This motto has not only worked for the production of our design concept. Throughout the implementation, we once again realized how incredibly important and how much fun teamwork is. We were actually up to the task, built a network and expanded our horizons. In this sense, we wish all students that they can count on so much help from colleagues and just start the adventure, even if it may seem a bit difficult in the beginning. Because this experience of really putting an idea into action and then – as in our case – finding a design that thrilled us even more than we thought, makes the time-consuming and laborious work worthwhile.

Concept: Theresa Hödl, Hannah Lackner and Lisa Wonnebauer
Prototype: Exhibition Design Students, year 2018
Text: Hannah Lackner
Photography: Theresa Hödl, Hannah Lackner, Himal Hemp, Lisa Wonnebauer