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.


Eucalipto, chachacoma y guarangüey

2016 /

Art and research /


Artisan knowledge demonstrates the continuity between the organic and the social in action.  Richard Sennet

KAI - Residencia de Arte e Investigación

How to overcome an economic organization that depends on the extraction of natural resources, which are sold, practically unprocessed, abroad – through extraction activity or extractivism? Eucalyptus, Chachacoma and Guarangüey is a research project in art and design that emerges from this question, that is developed using rural routes and derives in the Andean zones of Peru, and whose focus is on  studying existing local knowledges. It proposes to learn about and archive knowledges, using contemporary projects to experiment and co-produce in collaboration with local makers, provoking speculative processes around the material culture of specific rural communities (and their common trades), to generate small links between economy and knowledge.

For this project developed in the KAI "Art and Research Residency", Eucalyptus (globulus Labill eucalyptus) was worked with as a base material; it is a plant species that abounds in the Cuzco area, and was massively introduced in Andean zones during the agrarian reform undertaken by the military government of President Velazco during the 1960 decade through the early 1970s, because it was a kind of crop that grew quickly and promised to generate an internal economy whose exploitation would facilitate self-construction initiatives. It can currently be seen in furniture, in the planking used for construction projects, in light posts, on stairs and ceilings in the region.

The work was accomplished using a very common technique in this zone, which is used for the construction of furniture, and which consists of peeling the trunk, as well as sharpening and perforating another trunk to make connecting parts. The trunks of guarangüey and chachacoma were also used; these are Native woods from the region that, unlike eucalyptus, are obtained from the high grounds of the mountain. To do this, it is necessary to request authorization from the local community – who oversee and care for these hillsides and their resources. For the development of this project we collaborated with the master carpenter Juan Hermosa, from the Chichón community, and his assistant, Luciano Gonzales, from the town of Arín in Calca. The tools that were used for this process were ich'una, raspana, llacllana, th'okona, kuchuna and takana.

One of the results that came from these processes was the construction of an exhibition and rest system for KAI, which functions as a complement to and support for the exhibition space onsite: a platform to exhibit residents’ research processes, where documents, books and complementary materials can be exhibited in a continuous eucalyptus display that makes tables, shelves, benches and walls.

Eucalyptus, Chachacoma and Guarangüey is part of a long-term project called Common Trades: Rural Metabolism of Knowledges.

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