Game On’s neon-filled exhibit design pays homage to ’80s video games

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Spanish firm Smart & Green Design has reimagined the traveling Barbican Game On exhibition for an old underground cistern in Madrid, using more than 150 LED arches to evoke the neon colors of the 1980s.


The retrospective, said to be the largest international exhibition to explore the history of video games, covers more than 400 collectible objects and designs spanning the birth of technology from the 1960s to the present day.

Visitors to the exhibition can play 150 video games

Along with that, 150 original video games can be played as part of the show, including early games like Space Invaders and Tetris, classics like Rock Band, Pokemon and The Sims as well as newer games like Fifa and Wii Sports.

After visiting more than 30 countries, including China, the United States and Australia, the exhibition came to Madrid between November 2019 and May 2020 thanks to the Arts and Culture Foundation. Foundation channel.

Illuminated signs in the scenography of the Smart & Green Design video game exhibition
LEDs are arranged in colored arcs

Game On’s revamped setup, which earned Smart & Green Design the public vote at this year’s Dezeen Awards in the exhibition design category, relied heavily on multicolored LED tubes hung throughout the space. ‘exposure.

Placed in an otherwise dimly lit interior, these recalled the vector graphics of early video games such as Battle Zone, in which simple lines and curves on a black background were used to create the illusion of three-dimensional spaces.

LEDs were arranged in color-coded arches and tunnels to create the impression of architectural elements, demarcating 15 distinct sections and guiding visitors through the exhibition.

“The design follows simple geometries and repetitions as some of the most famous video games have done.” Smart and green designThe founder of Fernando Muñoz told Dezeen.

“These lines created perspectives and the illusion of 3D space, although all of the elements are two-dimensional.”

Each section was also marked with a neon sign proclaiming its theme, which hung in mid-air in a snap from the floating score numbers often found in the top corner of a game’s screen.

Neon signs in the Game On exhibit design by Smart & Green Design
Neon signs read the names of the different sections

The main challenge for the studio was to balance the buzz and excitement of an arcade with the kind of calm, contemplative spaces needed to accommodate the archival objects, sketches, and stories behind them. .

To this end, Muñoz has developed two distinct spatial typologies.

While the stations for playing the games were placed inside the existing 7.5-meter-high brick arches of the cistern, each lit by an LED frame, the remaining exhibits were housed in “light tunnels”, perpendicular to the arches.

LED arches in video game exhibition design from Smart & Green Design
Stations for playing video games are integrated into the existing brick arches of the cistern

“We designed several tunnels using rectangular wooden frames with built-in lights,” Muñoz said.

“The rhythm of these structures created the feeling of being inside a separate space and they also contain walls or showcases to show the contents.”

The layout of the Game On exhibition design by Smart & Green Design
Light tunnels extend perpendicular to existing brick arches (marked in black above)

To achieve these walls, the studio opted for soundproofing panels, which have the double advantage of muffling noise from the outdoor play space and of being easier to reuse for future exhibitions.

“We try not to use heavy resources like MDF or drywall, which cannot be reused without generating waste and requires a lot of energy for both assembly and disassembly,” Muñoz said.

“We try to create lightweight systems that are easily assembled and stored and with standardized dimensions so that they can be reused and adapted to any space or design.”

LED Frames in Video Game Exhibition Design from Smart & Green Design
The walls are integrated into the light tunnels to house the information

In order to compensate for the high gray energy of the LEDs, Muñoz designed the lighting system in a modular way, with tubes of half a meter, one meter or two meters long, so that they can be stored effectively and reused over and over again in different constellations.

It’s part of the studio’s larger strategy to try to reduce the amount of waste produced by temporary facilities.

Light tunnels in the Game On exhibition design by Smart & Green Design
The walls are made of sound absorbing panels

“The exhibition industry is responsible for a huge amount of waste due to the ephemeral state of its products,” Muñoz explained.

“We believe that through design and long-term collaborative strategies with exhibition organizers, waste can be reduced. We have designed our own carbon calculator and custom protocols to interact with administration and coordinators from the world of exhibitions. “

LED Frames in Video Game Exhibition Design from Smart & Green Design
The exhibition was visible until May 2020

Besides Game On, other exhibition projects short-listed for the Dezeen Awards 2020 include a memorial filled with artifacts that belonged to victims of gun violence and an installation at Fondazione Prada with 1,400 porcelain plates hanging from the walls of a golden coin.

Although the recipients of the public vote have already been determined, the winners of the official Dezeen Awards, judged by a panel of experts including Norman Foster, Michelle Ogundehin and Konstantin Grcic, will not be announced until the end of November.

The Game On exhibition took place from November 29, 2019 to May 31, 2020 at Castellana 214 in Madrid. Check out the Dezeen Events Guide for an up-to-date list of architecture and design events happening around the world.


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