Packaged Architecture

You’ve heard the barroom ditty “99 bottles of beer on the wall, 99 bottles of beer. Take one down and pass it around, 98 bottles of beer on the wall”? Well, try this one: “33,000 beer crates forming a wall, 33,000 beer crates …”

Asked by their client, Atomium, to construct a temporary pavilion in Brussels to mark the 50th anniversary of the Universal World Exhibition, SHSH, an architectural firm with offices in Brussels, London and Sendai, constructed a “package” exhibition space out of 33,000 recycled plastic beer crates.

“This project was an exercise in how a common item can transcend itself and become architecture, rather than mere object or even mere building,” explains SHSH (Shin Bogdan Hagiwara and Shizuka Hariu). “…we decided to use a material extracted from the daily life of an ordinary consumer. Hence, a plastic beer crate is used as a generic element – like bricks, but deployed beyond its individual characteristics. This allowed us to explore many common architectural features such as columns, arches, and domes…and form a huge and enigmatic interior environment.”

SHSH adds that the selection of empty beer crates, linked together like giant Lego blocks, “allowed us to reduce the time of assembly and disassembly, and to produce a series of spaces that far exceeds the mere accumulation of common elements in an architectural format.” The light filtering through the thousands of beer crates creates a reverent cathedral-like atmosphere that makes the space an art exhibit itself.