Exhibiting design means more than simply presenting beautiful things. It means making a statement about design. To stage design is to initiate a dialogue between and among exhibits, designers, exhibition visitors, and the Autostadt. Exhibiting thus becomes a process that encourages experimentation, discussion, and reflection.
An exhibition on design, on a broader understanding thereof, must consider the exhibition as a form of design. The treatment of design begins with the design of the exhibition. Developing an approach is not just about spatialization, communication, or staging; it is about making a (design) statement.
2 Specifics of the Design
An exhibition structure based on categorizing objects is not enough to present design as something simultaneously contemporary and historical, as something that continues to develop but has history and context. Exhibition design must seek less to offer an overview and more to gene-rate insights. A (critical) treatment can be achieved when the number of exhibits is radically reduced and the focus is placed on selected design approaches.
3 Exhibiting as Process
To bring individual observations into argumentative correlation, a narrative must be constructed across several exhibitions. This process — a sequence of positions — allows for high topicality within the exhibition, at the same time as expressing its historicity. Therein lies the possibility of allowing visitors to experience what design was, is, and could be; in stages and from various perspectives.
4 Dialogue as Operating Principle
The exhibition is a confrontation between two design positions that enter into an exchange with visitors. Dialogue thus becomes the second working principle of the process—as friendly conversation, contextual complement, constructive opposition, or even fundamental dispute. Things, objects, positions, and projects are connected to one other in rotating pairings. Both dialogue and confrontation as ways of reading an exhibition begin between the exhibited objects themselves.
5 The Exhibition as Part of Contemporary Debates
Insofar as the exhibition selects, interprets, and presents, it influences design’s discourse and practice. We thus consider the exhibition as a magazine, its composition and architecture as layout, and its curator as editor. The magazine as (formally designed) principle structures and communicates specific content through a chronological sequence. At the same time, it is a key player in the engagement with design. The exhibition concept thereby responds to a deficit in the design world—namely, a lack of spaces wherein design positions can be highlighted.
6 Archive as Container of Process
Exhibiting a bilateral process can only ever reveals its gaps. And yet it must remain possible to follow the sequence and thus the overarching narrative. The representation of the content in other media and its documentation in an archive accumulate the temporal excerpts and partial propositions. Every exhibition is simultaneously print magazine and online edition, and thus independent of the exhibition space and cycle even as it is situated within them as a physical archive.
7 Space as Space
The exhibition concept is not primarily focused on a spatial staging of objects in an interior world that seeks to win over the audience. The objects are instead placed in an oversized display case in the Autostadt context. The display case is the exhibition space; the context, on the other hand, is just one spatial excerpt of a larger building. In other words, it remains part of an existing architecture. The space’s qualities lie in its open referentiality to other spaces like the foyer, stairwell, and outdoor zone. To be intelligible, this realignment of the exhibition architecture must be precisely executed, the necessary measures kept virtually invisible.
8 Subtle Displays
A brief introductory text, a display case, and a magazine archive are positioned in the exhibition zone, which is not clearly demarcated. Unlike the display case, the introduction and archive are placed near the existing architecture. The introduction spotlights both topicality and temporal stratification; the posters and introductions for successive exhibitions are mounted layer by layer onto one of the building’s columns. The archive is located in front of the windows overlooking Wolfsburg, constituting a third interior façade layer. It is an archive display of all exhibitions and at the same time a place to read materials that visitors are free to take with them.
9 Display Case as Stage for Experiments
The display case is designed as a container for staging exhibitions. Every exhibited project is in conversation with it; inside, each included object encounters another. The large case asserts itself as counterpart to the visitor; as a practiced form of representation, it does not obscure the act of exhibiting and its gesture of valorization. In its form as a prism—the basic geometrical shape and tool for investigating light—it represents an experimental arrangement.