Exhibition at RIBA, London

“In the UK, 63% of waste comes from construction sites: a total of 126 million tonnes and 50,000 buildings are demolished each year across the country, many of which could be retrofitted and repurposed.” RIBA 2022

The Royal Institute of British Architects’ latest exhibition ‘Long Life, Low Energy: Designing for a Circular Economy’ explores the problem of waste in detail, and features forward-thinking projects from major architecture practices from around the U.K.

U-Build were asked to design and build the exhibition by RIBA, with our modular, demountable system befitting of the ethos of the exhibition. When the show concludes the components will be reused in several domestic and exhibition projects. Frames and display boxes have also been sourced from previous RIBA exhibitions, ensuring that waste is kept to an absolute minimum.

When designing the exhibition we looked at different ways people might progress through the space, dividing it into three separate sections, each referencing one of the three exhibition themes: ‘demolition’, ‘retrofit’ and ‘circular economy. The final design was born out of the collaboration with the RIBA curators and graphic designers Studio.Build. Whilst this design determined how many components were cut, the system allows for variation and exploration during construction, and can be reconfigured to suit other spaces when the exhibition tours

For installation, most of the boxes arrived pre-assembled, which allowed our 3-4 person team to place them quickly. Aside from the benefits to speed, this approach also helped reduce mess, as components did not require machining on-site. Of the around 290 components used in the project, only 3 needed to be trimmed during the build.

The boxes were braced against the existing structure to maintain rigidity. We relied on compression to secure the boxes, which minimised the impact of directly fixing into the gallery walls. In total, we set only around a dozen screws into the walls to secure all of the U-Build boxes, and that could have been reduced to zero with a different design.

The modular approach also made for a much safer working environment, with less risk of injury from power tools, less dust, waste and noise. It allowed us to run a design and build workshop during the build period, with the RIBA Youth Forum, who were able to participate in the construction, and learn more about the circular economy.

Photos courtesy of Agnese Sanvito

Animations and drawings by U-Build

With thanks to the RIBA Youth Forum