Looking Back | Pushing Forward: Inside the Exhibit Design Process

May 6, 2016 | Exhibitions


The Center for Architecture and Design is in the final stages of both a rebrand, with the help of J2 Design Partnership (J2), and a redesign of their space, which includes a new gallery to be home to semi-permanent and traveling exhibitions. Both the physical and brand overhauls help the Center position themselves as a model of a forward-thinking and inclusive design organization. These new design treatments have been coordinated to launch in conjunction with the annual American Institute of Architects’ Convention 2016 taking place across the street at the Philadelphia Convention Center.

The Center partnered with J2 to create Looking Back | Pushing Forward, an exhibition that highlights Philadelphia’s architectural gems, its adaptive reuse models, and the people who shaped the built environment, while looking forward to the city’s bright future as an architectural destination. With the official unveiling set for May 16th, this new exhibition helps the Center celebrate these organizational milestones and show off both the space and the city to tens of thousands of conference attendees.

A volunteer steering committee made up of Center employees, regional architects, and J2 design team members collaboratively identified the focus and content of the exhibit. Together, the team keyed in on particular narratives that broadly represented Philadelphia’s rich historical assets and its current position as an influential architectural and design idea lab.

The team at J2 designed the space so that the past and present complement each other: the wall of vintage-style black and white photos mirror a bright teal wall (Pantone 333U) with a contemporary font system (Fort). In defining the content for Looking Back | Pushing Forward the team focused on: the Vanna Venturi House, the Barnes Foundation, Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, Eastern State Penitentiary, Richard’s Medical Towers, Philadelphia City Hall, Philadelphia Savings Fund Society, Comcast Towers, Society Hill Towers and the Navy Yard. Each cluster of images is accompanied by supporting text written by the different committee members. Allowing for a flexible future use for the gallery space, J2 partnered with Walters Signs to fabricate the exhibition on vinyl, which could be easily disassembled and reassembled.  

The full exhibition build out also incorporates tables with maps and construction documents and a napkin sketch showcase specific to the AIA Convention. In addition, design symbols are incorporated from the new branding and amplified as a way to get visitors through the space. They will eventually be used to identify the exterior of the building as well.

J2 is excited to see this installation unveiled to the public in two weeks, as it introduces visitors and Philadelphia residents to both the architectural history of the city and the Center’s new space and brand.

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