El Ultimo Grito 16.09.14

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  • Sketch of talks space at 100% Design, which will spell out the letters of “auditorium”

  • Render of the talks space

For the 100% Design auditorium, the duo have created a huge inflatable sign, hung from the ceiling and rotating on motors. Even at a packed Earls Court, it shouldn't be hard to spot

Twenty years ago, El Ultimo Grito exhibited in the Chelsea tent that staged the first ever 100% Design. Two decades on, during which time the event has grown into the largest contemporary design show in
the UK, the duo have been invited back to design the auditorium
that will host speakers Jaime Hayon, Nina Tolstrup, Maxim and Eric Klarenbeek.

When Rosario Hurtado and Roberto Feo talk me through their idea for the commission it is early in the design process, yet they already have sizeable plans – to produce a series of giant inflatable letters spelling out the word "auditorium".

"It's exciting to do something really large. You don't have many opportunities to do things that are 6m high," says Hurtado. Using the full height of the Earls Court exhibition centre, the brightly coloured lettering will hang from the ceiling and rotate on motors ("slowly, so that you don't get dizzy") to create a beacon for the area within a packed exhibition hall.

In a departure from previous auditorium commissions, which enclosed the area completely, El Ultimo Grito's plan is to create a more fluid space that will double as a pit-stop for visitors to chat and relax between talks. "It's not really marking or defining the space but creating a visual point in the horizon," Feo says.

"So when you enter, you see that something is happening there." He acknowledges that such a large installation can pose challenges when navigating the tricky health and safety requirements that come with such a busy site. "I really want them to be quite close to people, but you cannot anticipate the natural vandal in each of us."

The design is a composite idea, generated from different aspects of the duo's practice – the inflatable form of one work, the bright graphic pattern of another, and some leeway for the production process. It is a "spirit" rather than an exact 3D rendering – a way of working that has presented some challenges for contractors. "You have to mix it in your head and imagine it," says Hurtado. To go the other way and draw up an idea of the finished piece "takes away some of the freshness of it", Feo adds.

To accommodate the production of a work on this scale, away from the more generous timelines of gallery installation, Hurtado and Feo have had to adapt their process. "In normal installations you start in
a traditional way – a bone structure, then you have the skin. In this one, you have to kind of produce everything in flat," says Feo. But to retain the El Ultimo Grito aesthetic, it will still be finished on site: "We want to keep some element that will be hand-painted."



Jessica Mairs

quotes story

I really want them to be quite close to people, but you cannot anticipate the natural vandal in each of us

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