City of Sound is about cities, design, architecture, music, media, politics and more. Written by Dan Hill since 2001.

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In terms of Fabrica-at-exhibitions this last year, Sam Baron's studio has been blazing a trail in particular, doing multiple exhibits in multiple cities. Almost too many to track.

The show for Salone del Mobile was a particular highlight, continuing Fabrica's relationship with the amazing Villa Necchi in Milano, one of the most beautiful houses I've seen (it was the perfectly elegant backdrop to Tilda Swinton's Jil Sander dresses in "I Am Love", film fans.)

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This show took place on Necchi's tennis court, and comprised objets designed by Sam's studio, each speaking of a particular FAI property in Italy. Each researcher was sent to a different historical property, across Italy, and had two days to understand the place, talk with locals, design an object which conjured the place, and make it, using local craft skills or artisans, and with no budget! Given that test, it's somewhat amazing that the objects that emerged from this brief are so lovely, considered and evocative. As with a Fabrica dinner on a Milano tram I will mention shortly—also organised by Sam's studio—the thoughtful reflection and delicate craft was often seen as welcome relief after the "shouting about chairs" of Salone elsewhere.

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More photos here.

Although there were other fine exhibitions (such as Drawing Glass in Paris and From The Floor Up in London, also by Sam's studio, as well as a major Colors exhibition at the Festival of Dangerous Ideas in Sydney)—and Aaron Siegel's studio is working on a major show for Rome at the moment—the other one I'll pick out is for the Lisbon Architecture Triennale, a few weeks ago. Again, Sam's studio took the lead here, though working with David Penuela from Aaron's team.

Fabrica's show was part of a group show called "The Institute Effect", featuring multiple institutions, such as Storefront for Art & Architecture, Strelka, Center for Land Use Interpretation, Z33, Design as Politics, and many others. Each institution was to follow the other in some way.

Fabrica was first in line, and Sam's team's approach was to build a modular system, via public workshops, that the subsequent institutions could use to build their week-long programmes with. The venue was MUDE, Lisbon's design museum which situated in a beautiful old bank, and the "Institute Effect" exhibition was on one of its dustier, stonier, warehouse-like upper levels.

So Sam's team devised some modular furniture elements, a modular graphic system, and a modular web service, each of which related to the other but could be taken apart by incoming teams subsequently. Then, working with local students, a series of furniture elements emerged—benches, shelves, chairs, crates and so on—with customised graphic identities alongside.

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This of course ticks several boxes for me, such as modular, adaptive components, collaborative design processes, open platforms and so on. But better was to see the buzz of activity when I visited on the closing Saturday and Sunday, with highly imaginative adaptations created in collaboration.

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Sam's studio has a strong relationship with Lisbon, so it was great to do a show there. I was particularly pleased that we got to contribute to the Triennal, as it was under Beatrice Gallilee this year, and was far more interesting than most architecture fests as a result. (Thanks hugely to Dani Admiss, also, for curating our particular show.)

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There are more—and better—photos here.

What's Sam's studio does very well is use exhibitions to drive the rhythm of the studio. By giving themselves these immovable deadline of showing in public, they get stuff done. It's hard work, but productive, and the researchers really appreciate that. As do I.

We're increasingly using exhibitions to get Fabrica out and about, and watch out for more on that front, big and small. For instance, we're currently working hard on a very big, very top secret, quite design fiction-esque exhibition, for next February. More when I have it, but that is also using an exhibition to develop particular new skills and new perspectives inside Fabrica, through partnering with great design firms, and homing in on new thematic areas.

Another post along shortly.


  • Use exhibitions to turn Fabrica inside-out.
  • Use exhibitions to drive the rhythm of the studio.
  • Use exhibitions to acquire new skills, new perspectives.
  • Design holistic experiences and events.


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