Exhibition designers call for central body

Leading exhibition designers say the absence of a central representative body, together with a lack of Government commitment and understanding of the discipline, means the sector is falling well short of its potential.

These interlinked points reduce the quality of domestic exhibitions and waste a valuable opportunity to promote our country abroad, they argue.

Neal Potter Design Associates founder Neal Potter is leading the appeal for the creation of a central body for exhibition architects, who he believes are not properly represented by existing industry bodies. It would place particular emphasis on global exhibitions.

Potter says the Museum and Exhibition Group, which he used to chair, “remains rooted in the in-house museum culture” and points out the Chartered Society of Designers lists exhibitions in its interior design category.

“[The CSD] needs to make major changes in its organisation to see exhibitions as an independent major player,” he says.

Giles Velarde Associates founder Giles Velarde agrees on the need for a central body.

“The Design Council, the Design Business Association and the CSD need to address the issue together,” says Velarde. Meanwhile Blue Square Design managing director Christopher Curtis is unsure who should take responsibility. He is keen to sit down with other exhibition consultancies to examine the issues.

Potter says the lack of a body is linked to a lack of Government commitment to exhibition design.

“We are not consulted [on Government projects] because we are not organised as a professional body,” he says.

Potter describes the recent Expo ’98 brief from The Foreign and Commonwealth Office as “amateurish” and “confused” and says he turned down the opportunity to pitch as a result. He says such projects are a great opportunity to promote Britain abroad and are largely being squandered.

Land Design Studio creative director Peter Higgins agrees there has been a lack of “vision” in the exhibition sector at Government level, while Curtis says the problem is as true to the private as the pubic sector.

See Letters, page 11

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