alberto caiola designs a stand for the herman miller collection in shanghai design 2021

alberto caiola designed a striking booth for retailer Herman Miller’s collection of vans, on display at design shanghai 2021, the leading Chinese showcase for international design brands, architects and interior designers. the dazzling booth was inspired by the heritage of the herman miller brand, echoed by an insightful saying from the company’s first design director, gilbert rhode, boldly printed on the back wall of the booth: “the most important thing in the room is not the furniture – it’s the people. ‘

pictures by dirk weiblen

in alberto caiola’s conception, the quote became a catalyst for exploring the ways the COVID-19 pandemic has not only transformed and expanded the roles of the home, but has turned our lives upside down as well. by playing on perspective and light, the stand frames herman miller furniture as intelligent solutions for flexible living. radically breaking with the standard stand design, the design of caiola overturns the rules of lighting.

subverting the principles of lighting design alberto caiola lets experience speak 2

unlike the way products are typically illuminated from above, the furniture on display in this stand was fully illuminated from below by means of illuminated tiles. the effect not only reinforced a key theme of inviting visitors to think of the home in an entirely different and new light, but it also echoed the quote from the booth’s centerpiece by highlighting no not the furniture, but the people. the underfoot lighting gave the stand an otherworldly sensory quality, creating an extraordinary experience for visitors.

subverting the principles of lighting design alberto caiola lets experience speak 3

Due to the position of the light source, people do not cast any shadows when moving in space. the cinematic, almost Kafkaesque effect was a nod to the number of people who have lived through the pandemic: without shadows, marking the passage of time becomes almost impossible. during periods of confinement too, a strange combination of apathy and urgency affected our perception of time.

subverting the principles of lighting design alberto caiola lets experience speak 4

the cabin comprises four distinct areas or “rooms”, separated by mesh partitions. these areas consist of a living room, play area, home office and dining room, and their imagined function is indicated by an organized selection of freestanding furniture. the grid walls have the double effect of opening and obscuring the plan thanks to the depth of the partitions. the views of visitors in adjacent rooms depend on their position and appearance.

subverting the principles of lighting design alberto caiola lets experience speak 5

positioned behind one of those mesh walls, the booth’s background quote is also only visible when viewed from a particular angle. the grid signs also point to an outcome of the COVID-19 pandemic that will be familiar to many. that is, capturing and sharing insights into newly hybridized work and living spaces across computer screens, thanks to endless video calls brought about by the conditions of the home office. Comprising free-standing pieces in a fully modular configuration, the stand has been purposefully designed for reuse. the two illuminated floor tiles, as well as the partition walls, can be reconfigured to suit the dimensions of the booths at future furniture shows, creating significant layers of flexibility and durability.

subverting the principles of lighting design alberto caiola lets experience speak 6

steel lattice walls + luminous tiles make up this stand for the Herman Miller's collection

steel lattice walls + luminous tiles make up this stand for the Herman Miller collection

steel lattice walls + luminous tiles make up this stand for the Herman Miller's collection

steel lattice walls + luminous tiles make up this stand for the Herman Miller's collection

steel lattice walls + luminous tiles make up this stand for the Herman Miller's collection

steel lattice walls + luminous tiles make up this stand for the Herman Miller's collection

project info:

Last name: herman miller booth at ‘design shanghai 2021’

designate: alberto caiola

location: Shanghai, China

designboom received this project from our ‘DIY submissions‘, where we invite our readers to submit their own work for publication. see more project submissions from our readers here.

edited by: yasmina karam | design boom


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