Ecodesign in the Museums: guidelines and examples

Shigeru Ban, actual Premi Pritzker, el 1986 ja ens mostrava el potencial dels materials biodegradables dins els museus fent ús de les estructures tubulars de paper, que tant ha utilitzat posteriorment en les seves singulars arquitectures.

Shigeru Ban, currently the Pritzker Architecture Prize, in 1986 he already showed us the potential of biodegradable materials within museums, making use of tubular structures of paper, that have subsequently been used so much in his singular architectures.

Within the rich universe of the temporary exhibitions, we live in a process of packing and unpacking. The majority of museums and cultural centres of the world, and especially the art museums, allocate one or more rooms to programming a series of exhibitions each season, each with a start and finishing date. Constructing for deconstructing, that is what ephemeral architecture is based on. It is for this reason of “expiry” that it makes it necessary to think of the impacts that the construction of spaces that host the travelling works can generate, among these being environmental sustainability. It is necessary to avoid the design of temporary exhibitions that create permanent waste. To therefore think about criteria of ecodesign.

Basic guidelines to guarantee sustainability in the museums

First and very important: The application of ecological design doesn’t affect the other properties of the product, and under no circumstances should economic or aesthetic aspects be forgotten. It’s not true that the most sustainable materials are the most expensive, and it’s not true that sustainable materials have a “tacky” appearance.

It’s a question of not generalising and designing with the knowledge of the material, there’s much more than we think behind such a serious topic as sustainable construction, the best known example being: the cardboard panels, it’s just a beginning, but on the other hand very efficient, and above all in terms of visibility.

Exposició Pitarra, 1864-1866 al TNC, on es reutilitzen cadires d’una escenografia que ajuden a contextualitzar el contingut, el material gràfic consta d’una impressió amb tintes de base aquosa damunt de panells de sandvitx de cartó. (Foto Anna Alcubierre).

Exhibition Pitarra, 1864-1866 at the TNC –The National Theatre of Catalonia–, in which chairs from a scenography were reused that helped to contextualise the contents, the artwork consisted of water-based inks printed on panels of sandwiched cardboard. (Photo Anna Alcubierre).

Second and very useful: Aiming for 100% sustainability in the carrying out of exhibitions is a difficult task, as a piece of advice, it doesn’t need to be black or white, the range of greys lets us continue working with common sense, the question is to practise it as far as possible.

Third and textbook: we can contemplate three aspects in the process;

1. Sustainability in the choice of materials without losing quality. The use of renewable, recycled or recyclable, biodegradable and local materials.

Muntatge de l’exposició Sorolla el color del mar a CaixaForum Barcelona, on s’utilitza el sistema de reutilització de murs a partir d’una estructura interna d’acer, amb panells de fusta i posterior acabat amb pintura a l’aigua damunt de paper kraft. (Foto Anna Alcubierre).

Setting up of the exhibition Sorolla the colour of the sea in the CaixaForum Barcelona, in which the system is used of reusing walls based on an internal structure of steel, with wooden panels and posterior finishing with water-based paint on kraft paper. (Photo Anna Alcubierre).

In the case of permanent exhibitions, use long-lasting materials and with a capacity for aging.

2. Sustainability in the production processes. To avoid different types of materials so as to facilitate the recycling. Minimisation of the maintenance and surface treatment of the materials. Selection of the chemical products which are least harmful for the environment in the fireproofing processes and graphic printing.

Muntatge de l’exposició El museu explora. Obres d’art a examen al Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya. La senzillesa dels materials naturals, en estat pur, sense tractaments, aporta l’atmosfera de «taller d’art» en relació amb el discurs expositiu. (Foto Anna Alcubierre).

Setting up the exhibition The museum explores. Works of art under examination in the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya. The simplicity of the natural materials, in a pure state, untreated, provides an atmosphere of “art studio” in relation to the expositive discourse. (Photo Anna Alcubierre).

Muntatge de l’exposició Imatges secretes, Picasso i l’estampa eròtica japonesa al Museu Picasso de Barcelona, on els murs semitransparents que divideixen els àmbits són, alhora, el suport de la informació gràfica mitjançant impressió directa, damunt de teixit de paper de cel•lulosa tensat, amb bastidor de fusta de pi i de pollancre. (Foto Anna Alcubierre).

Setting up the exhibition Secret images, Picasso and the erotic Japanese print in the Museu Picasso de Barcelona, in which the semi-transparent walls that divide the spaces are, at the same time, the support for the graphic information by means of direct printing on stretched cellulose tissue paper with a poplar pinewood frame. (Photo Anna Alcubierre).

3. Sustainability in the energy expenditure and maintenance. The use of long-lasting and low energy consumption lighting material, as well as audio-visual equipment with an ecological label provided it is possible. Minimisation of the maintenance of the installation.

It is therefore easy to act.

Can we as museums allow ourselves to construct ephemeral spaces that generate external waste

Anna Alcubierre

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