Delvendahl Martin Architects, London, 2019



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The Eco-Visionaries show at the Royal Academy of Arts examines humankind’s ecological impact on the planet, featuring a variety of works by artists and architects, all interrogating how creative practices can help us respond to a rapidly changing world

Delvendahl Martin’s low-waste exhibition design comprises a predominantly open plan scheme, which uses structured hanging screens to arrange the space. Moving gradually from dark to light, the use of colour and lighting emphasises the conceptual transition from the themes of ‘disaster’ through ‘empathy’ and ultimately to ‘adaptation’. In the spirit of the themes and aims of this exhibition, Delvendahl Martin’s approach was to build little from scratch, making use of existing resources and reclaimed materials as much as possible.

Free-standing plinths and furniture have been borrowed and salvaged from recent and past exhibitions. In the design of the partition screens, which are made from promotional banners from the Royal Academy, Delvendahl Martin have explored the re-use of an available resource to produce something altogether new. Single-use plastics are being avoided altogether, instead using materials that are chosen for their low environmental impact, such as plywood, paper and card, recycled wherever possible. Fundamentally, the aim throughout was to reduce process, material demand, carbon footprint and waste, by proposing an efficient design that relies on a few carefully placed interventions to organise the space.

Work in this field has illuminated for the practice the wastefulness not only of the exhibition industry, but of the construction industry as a whole. Delvendahl Martin has used this project as a test bed to explore an environmentally considered approach, which brings sustainability to the forefront of the design process and delivery, and demonstrates how this can result in a high quality outcome, on a limited budget.

Photography by Agnese Sanvito


  • Begun: Nov 2019
  • Completed: Nov 2019
  • Floor area: 440m2
  • Sector: Arts and culture
  • Total cost: £37,000
  • Funding: Royal Academy of Arts
  • Tender date: Jul 2019
  • Procurement: Small Works Contract
  • Address: Royal Academy of Arts, Burlington House, Piccadilly, Mayfair, London, W1J 0BD, United Kingdom