'Closed Worlds'

  • Closed Worlds
    Identity System, Custom Typography, Exhibition Design and Publication Design
  • What do outer space capsules, submarines, and office buildings have in common? Each was conceived as a closed system, a self-sustaining physical environment that is set apart from its surroundings and uses its own matter and energy to function. Closed Worlds is a new exhibition at the Storefront for Art and Architecture in New York that presents 41 living prototypes for these ecologically regenerative systems. Natasha Jen and her team have created an innovative exhibition design for Closed Worlds that is a closed system in itself, complete with its own custom typeface, display methodology and organizational structure.

    The exhibition presented each prototype as its own mini-world: Each of the 41 projects is displayed within a cylinder suspended from the ceiling, and visitors are invited to step inside. The exterior of the each styrene cylinder teases the prototype within with an intriguing question: “Can man become amphibian?,” “What good is a toilet without a flush?,” and “What is the power of shit?,” to name a few. The interior presents a synopsis of the prototype and analysis in the form of net-zero diagrams that illustrate the ecological footprint and feedback drawings that visualize performance and energy flow.

    The cylinders are accompanied by a 42nd prototype, Some World Games, a virtual reality installation by Farzin Farzin that invites visitors to explore and experiment with the archive of 41 closed systems in the larger exhibition. The installation was selected as the winning project in the Closed Worlds Design Competition hosted by Storefront in November 2015.

    Jen and her designers approached the exhibition design as the 43rd closed system in Closed Worlds, and wanted to create their own custom typeface for the identity and graphics. The font, appropriately called CLOSED, visually echoes the confined, self-sustaining physical environments in the show.

    The numbers beneath the 41 prototype cylinders direct visitors to a linear timeline that runs the length of the gallery. The typology of each prototype on the timeline is represented by a symbol based on a simple shape. Each prototype in the timeline also contains a color-coded bar graph that depicts the cycles of the various resources within its closed system. More extensive information is presented in an accompanying leaflet for each project. Together the 41 leaflets are conceived of as a book for the exhibition.

    At the opposite end of the gallery, the timeline leads to “Speculative Histories,” a supergraphic that displays a parallel historical narrative of enclosed spaces. The wall features projects and publications more loosely associate with the timeline, including images of speculative design projects, as well as legislation throughout the respective periods.