Wednesday 11 November 2015

Studio Hardie Diaries - Creating a Plain Space for John Pawson

The team at Studio Hardie, based in Lewes, East Sussex, has a wide range of specialist expertise from cutting-edge design to age-old craft skills. In this post, Hamish Boden describes the challenges they faced when creating the ultimate modern exhibition space using traditional skills.
This project was a 1:1 scale architectural installation to host the Plain Space exhibition for British architect John Pawson , described by the New York Times as “the father of modern architectural minimalism”.  The installation space was both a location for the exhibition and part of the event and was based at the Design Museum, London, in September 2010. 

Hamish writes “This was one of Studio Hardie’s first full-scale architectural installations, essentially a building inside a building. The difficulty with achieving a crisp minimal look is that exposed fixings are not allowed so all the mechanics go on behind the scenes.

Another major hurdle of the project was the timescale, achieving the level of tolerance and perfection on a really tight installation turnaround. The beauty of having such a big workshop is that you can create entire structures, test them check everything fits and make fine adjustments before leaving the workshop, this can save days of site work.

Spending time meticulously planning the install is critical; the choreography of how everything comes together quickly, accurately and beautifully. We couldn’t rely on ‘off the shelf’ being totally straight so we designed a new system for making dead flat-straight walls out of MDF torsion boxes. You often hear carpenters complaining about using MDF but for us it was a rare treat.  We are used to using solid timber that shrinks cracks and moves.  MDF in contrast is a very predictable and versatile material.

It was a real challenge to create the curved ceiling.  We knew that constructing the sections on the floor would mean we could make a much better quality finish than working over-head. 
This is where modern technology meets classic old-fashioned carpentry knowledge. To get the perfect curve we had some roof fins cut with CNC and covered them with a thin sheet of MDF. 

Next we had the challenge of hoisting the entire roof up in to the air.  For this we simply made some large roof trusses that we knew would take the weight and bolted them to our structure.  We used a genie lift to hoist them in to the air and lowered it back down on to the walls.  Job done!”

Photos: Gilbert McCarragher

To find out more about the team at  Studio Hardie and their work, see our earlier blog post

Studio Hardie is based in Lewes, East Sussex. Website


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