Exhibition architecture

Exhibition architecture

Design for Archival Materials

These works of exhibition architecture explore the interstitial space between the document, the body, furniture and architecture.

The projects presented here are exhibition systems for art and historic archival materials, which are conceived as mobile architecture of intermediate scale, that relate the body of the visitor with the experience of archival material through a more domestic scale, in which the document and the body are in a more equitable situation. These designs create a liminal space between an art exhibition and a library, where one is able and willing to spend more time, to sit and read, to move slowly through space. Time in these archival exhibitions flows differently and the built environments function as mechanisms where one stays, sits or reads, turning the gallery into a public space.

These characteristics allow these exhibits to challenge and disturb the tacit policies that exist in contemporary museum spaces and that give one the feeling of being in a bank or in a church. "Do not touch anything; stand behind that line; we know that you would not understand; if you understand something, good for you; please keep walking. Do not stay." This experiments explore different strategies to hack the body of the visitor and put them in a different bodily relation to the space, breaking the formal status of how one needs to behave in an exhibition space, without using any signage or labels, just choreographing the body in a more informal manner.

Made of modular groupings, with drawers, furniture, open structures and mobile devices all our projects invite to stay, encourage exchanges and create public space. Its construction avoids participating in the “drywall bureaucracy” of ubiquitous exhibition design, that characterizes most contemporary “white cube” exhibitions, nor work with modern monolithic proposals, instead we use diverse techniques and construction systems, which have the ability to change, can be reused and grow.



Art and research

Art and research

Experimental devices and Common trades 

The early projects have resulted from my research of informal architecture in the different cities where I have lived, Lima, Tijuana and now Mexico City/San Francisco. I learned from the self-constructed "informal" city that there are different kinds of mobile architecture, which I have described as “changeable,” “incremental,” and “accumulative,” design. All of them are forms of built self-organization and together comprise around 50% of the built environment of many Latin American cities. My research has led to production of a diverse family of mobile devices, accumulative constructions and systemic approaches.

This experience was later applied to further investigation of the mining regions of Peru that, in my opinion, share with the contentious areas of the informal city of Lima the revelation of historical territorial and social disputes associated with land tenure policies, collective rights, migration, and the great struggles of class and labor. That is why my recent research projects investigate the transformation of the landscape of the Andes by the extractive mining industry and the social conflict that this economy generates. 

How to create projects that challenge the economic dependence of formal globalized economies—meaning that in one way or another they are dependent on extractive, unsustainable and inequitable systems—within the disciplines of art and design? My answer has been to create research projects that study “common trades” of urban and rural communities to register, experiment and co-produce, with knowledge of local craftsmen contemporary designs and processes, to generate a small chain of knowledge around those histories. By “common trades” I mean the trades people who make the common things used every day, such as glaziers, carpenters, and metal workers whose skills are commonly utilized but underecognized.

From this experience the long term project Oficios Comunes, Metabolismo Urbano de Saberes / Common Trades, Urban Metabolism of Knowledge emerged and together with it different projects that study the material culture and the local knowledge of urban, rural and marginalized communities of makers.

Mobile devices

Mobile devices

Furniture / Mobiles / Muebles

The furniture and urban mobile devices, such as carts, benches and chairs utilize popular construction languages to define their forms, such as a wheelbarrow, taco stands and others. Exploring mobility, temporality, and change, these pieces are often designed to intervene in the public space as well as exist in public and private settings.

Some of the furniture pieces presented in this section were designed as part of systems developed in exhibition architectures which have been individually evolved and transformed.


Model for a Factory / Museum

2018 /

Exhibition architecture /

Museo Numismatico Nacional - Casa de Moneda

Esta nueva maqueta para la Sala de Orientación del Museo Numismático Nacional se realizo para poder explicar sus más de 350 años de arquitectura industrial y sus diferentes tipologías constructivas. La maqueta esta disectada en 4 niveles donde se explica el proyecto del Museo Numismatico, presentar el inmueble como patrimonio de arquitectura industrial; presentar los acervos y maquinarias que contiene el museo contiene, y por ultimo mostrar la relacion del museo con los comunidades del barrio del Carmen.

Nivel 1- Los techos, arcos y bóvedas (Patrimonio de Arquitectura industrial)

Nivel 2- Las maquinas, rieles, chimeneas (Fabrica - Museo)

Nivel 3- Los muros del inmueble (La relacion del inmueble y el barrio)

Nivel 4: El centro historico trazado en el piso (identidad y vinculacion)

Para la construcción se utilizaron múltiples técnicas y modos de producción que hacen referencia a los procesos que utilizaba en la fabrica, por lo que por ejemplo todas las maquinarias fueron fundidas en metal (aluminio), el proceso fue, impresión en 3D, luego moldeadas en arena y finalmente fundidas en aluminio. El riel de color rojo del mismo segundo nivel es por donde se transportaba el material de un proceso a otro, por ejemplo de la sala de fundición se llevaban a la salas de amonedación para acuñar las monedas. Este riel nos sirve en la maqueta para que constructivamente podamos unir y a la vez dejar flotando en el aire todas las maquinarias de ese nivel. El riel rojo hace parecer ese nivel al trazo de un circuito eléctrico o un micro chip, ese parecido se da dado que riel funcionaba de la misma manera, era el que generaba el circuito por donde circulaba todo el material.

Los techos, arcos, y bóvedas que flotan el primer nivel superior esta compuesto por aproximadamente 10 diferentes estructuras arquitectónicas de tipologías constructivas diferentes y que reflejan la arquitectura de momento histórico en el que fueron hechas a lo largo de los aproximadamente 350 años del inmueble.

Los muros del edificio que se ocupan el tercer nivel abajo se cortaron y tallaron con CNC digital y se utilizo de material PVC en versión espuma, para reducir el peso de esa sección.

Giacomo Castagnola received his Master of Science in Art, Culture and Technology (SMACT) from the School of Architecture and Planning of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 2013, and holds a degree in architecture and urbanism from Ricardo Palma University (URP) in Lima Peru. Originally from Lima, Peru, for seven years (2003-2010) he lived and worked in the Tijuana / San Diego border region where he established Germen, an architectural and design studio, to investigate the self-organized "informal" city that composes up to 40% of the urban and growing infrastructure of many Latin American cities. Currently, Castagnola works between Mexico City and San Francisco in architecture for exhibitions and museographies that explore new ways of displaying archives of art and material culture. His work seeks to overcome the white cube and the bureaucracy of drywall; proposes to treat the museum as a public space through the use of different structures and exhibition systems that explore the interstitial space between document, body, furniture and architecture.

Logo Germen


Giacomo Castagnola


Erik López
Cristóbal García

Past Collaborators

Fernando J Limón — San Diego, CA
Fernando Becerra — San Diego, CA
Carlos A. Augusto Paz — Tijuana, MX