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The Hermès Group has devised the H Box, designed to be both a showcase for an annual programme of video art commissions and a mobile screening arena. This original initiative ties in with the semantic root of the company name itself, since “Hermès” was the Greek god of travellers, and here the spectator can embark on a journey of discovery within an object that itself is designed to travel.
(Published on May 2008 – JEC Magazine #40)
Designed by the architect and designer, Didier Fiuza Faustino, under the leadership of Benjamin Weil, the programme curator, the H Box is a self-contained creation designed to be shipped around the world (figure 1). Inside, spectators are invited to discover the creations of artists from different cultures and countries in this mobile display space measuring 6.5 by 5 metres. Every year, four new artists will join the programme, to take the place of four others. An inventive and entirely collapsible structure, the H Box is equipped with state-of-the-art audiovisual equipment. For this project, which forms part of the artistic production programme that Hermès has been running for several years, video takes centre-stage (figure 2). The H Box offers an ideal enclosure for excellent sound and picture quality. The space is designed to receive ten spectators at once and to be shipped worldwide in order to reach out to as large a public as possible.
More information: www.euro-shelter.com
From concept to finished article
It was in the final quarter of 2006 that Didier Fiuza Faustino and his agency, Le Bureau des Mésarchitectures, won the contract from Hermès to create its H Box, in the framework of the latter’s patronage of modern art. Mr. Faustino created the H Box to resemble a Hermès object: useful, beautiful and functional. This projection room is fashioned in the style of a handbag, a mobile furnishing or a suitcase and, as such, is not designed to stay put. It encapsulates the notion of travel, both physical for the unit and sensory for the spectator inside it. Didier Fiuza Faustino called upon the services of Philippe Smith for the engineering and the technical project management and on Euro-Shelter for the production of the composite panels. At the time, there was only one year to go before the H Box was due to be inaugurated. Mr. Faustino had already implemented design projects using sandwich structures with the same partners. The H Box was produced using honeycomb sandwich structures that are both large and yet light, and the 7 x 5 m assembly is collapsible for easy transportation.
Dimensions: 6.50 x 2.80 x 4.92
mGangway: 2.40 x 1.80
mTotal weight: 2,600
kgSeating capacity: 10
Number of parts: 117
The structure consists of two distinct elements: a mechanically welded steel framework, providing the support structure, and the video screening cell made up of sandwich panels, assembled using mortise and tenon joints. These panels were produced using 60 mm-thick aluminium honeycomb and 0.8 mm-thick aluminium skins (figure 3).
The panels were machined from flat panels manufactured using cold vacuum presses. The adhesive bonding step was a painstaking process on account of the size of the metal sheets, which are 2.5 metres wide by 6 to 7 metres long, with the 0.8 mm skin being very fragile to manipulate.
The panels were then folded in a mould according to the predefined dimensions. Angle brackets were riveted at the folds to provide reinforcement. The manufacturing of these large panels required great care in order not to damage the surface of the aluminium skins, which remain bare and visible. The polyurethane edging of the panels was the work of another subcontractor. Cast aluminium parts were specially manufactured for the H Box and riveted to the panels (figure 4). These parts reinforce the panel assembly, in conjunction with the mortise and tenon joints, and also serve an aesthetic purpose. The total weight of the H Box is 2.6 tonnes, 1.6 of which is accounted for by the supporting structure. Almost 400 kg of honeycomb was required for the assembly. The internal sound insulation was produced using an acoustic correction coating, since the panels form a material that is too reflective for sound waves. The walls of the façade are made of self-coloured transparent acrylic.
Assembly and disassembly alike take two days. For ease of handling, the heaviest panel weighs no more than 160 kg. Special crates have been made for transportation, and the entire unit can be transported on two semi-trailers. The equipment has been designed for some twenty exhibitions around the world in the space of five years.
The H Box began its journey at the Pompidou Centre in Paris in November 2007. It will then move on to the MUSAC, Museo de Arte Contemporanáneo de Castilla y León (Spain), the MUDAM (Luxembourg), the Tate Modern in London and then on to other exhibition sites in Europe, Asia and America.