Pitch black was Norm Architects’ concept for the Cabinetmakers’ Autumn Exhibition – a dramatic vision that applied both to the exhibits and the exhibition design. Staged in Copenhagen’s Lapidarium of Kings – a museum of classic stone sculpture – the task was to create a temporary exhibition within a permanent one, using only the subtleties of light and shadow.
Visitors encounter each furniture piece lit by single spotlight, with the rest of the space plunged into darkness. The idea is to encourage a slow and multi-sensory appreciation of design that indulges more than just the eyes. Norm Architects co-founder Jonas Bjerre-Poulsen says: 'The world of design is becoming extremely visual and we wanted to enhance the haptic experience. In the dark, viewing design requires much more attention – you really have to discover each piece in detail and see with your whole body.'
Left: 'Papyrus' by Henrik Sørig Thomsen, for Godsbanens A&bne Værksteder. Right: 'Snaregade' bench, by Norm Architects, for Sørensen Læder
All of the exhibition’s 48 experimental furniture pieces carry the pitch-black theme; in colour but also exploring abstract ideas of darkness. James Stoklund & Sine Ringgaard’s '3in1' chair has a stained wood wedge that joins two bent aluminium planes seemingly invisibly, and Norm Architects’ own 'Snaregade' bench explores the deepness of aniline leather upholstery and a blackened steel frame.
Fun has been had with site-specific staging too. Stone busts are turned seemingly in conversation over charred-wood side table, and a stack of chairs loosely shaped in a horse-like form reaches eye-level with an equestrian statue.
Bjerre-Poulsen says getting visitors and designers used to the idea of viewing design in the dark has been a challenge, but worth it. He adds, 'It may be that this exhibition is not made for Instagram but surely a furniture exhibition that engages touch and sound is much more unusual.'