A Love Letter to the City
The World Stage
A dynamic space for conversation about the future of global cities
Exhibition booths are often anonymous spaces, made from short-term construction materials that lead to additional waste after the exhibition. The Next City World Stage started with the idea that we could upend this typical exhibition booth process and program. The initiative began during our first collaboration with Proyecto NN in Medellin during WUF 7, and would continue with the same ethos in further iterations of the project. By using local materials and working with local builders and craftsmen for all construction, and then finding a way to reuse the exhibition’s elements and materials after the events were over, we found a way to craft a truly innovative approach to participating in events.
Underlying all iterations of the World Stage was the desire to create something completely different from the cold, sometimes clinical exhibition spaces often found at conventions and trade shows. Because so many people from all over the world attend such events, we wanted to create a dynamic space where artists, journalists, experts and the general public could interact, exchange information, tell stories, work and ultimately create a sense of community that would allow ideas to cross social, economic and political boundaries in a way that typically was not possible.
There were three iterations of the Next City World Stage, each taking on its own unique visual language and characteristics.
World Urban Forum 7 / Medellin, Colombia /2014
In 2014 The United Nations hosted The Seventh Annual World Urban Forum in Medellin. The conference focused on Urban Equity in Development, and involved over 10,000 participants sharing strategies for addressing the challenges facing cities around the world.
This was the first iteration of the World Stage, and would set the tone for future versions. I worked closely with Next City, Quilian Riano and Proyecto NN to conceive the themes for the exhibition and to design the stage itself. There were a number of unique features and concepts, including:
Framing Structures and Exhibition Cubes
Two large metal structures frame the exhibition space as well as serve as a place to store exhibition cubes. The cubes feature images and information about innovative projects from the across the Americas. They can be removed from the structure to function as seating and as catalysts for conversation.
Three movable panels contain a working definition of resilience, justice and equity. Those panels then fold to create tables and opportunities to discuss those definitions. When unfolded, a series of strings is revealed, on which visitors’ ideas about each subject can be hung.
Bleachers / chalkboards
Flexible bleachers serve as the main seating area. The bleachers, however, can be placed upright to reveal a chalkboard on their underside. Together, these elements create multiple ways to use the space and to discuss the key concepts of the exhibit.
Habitat III / Quito, Ecuador / 2016
In 2016, 30,000 urbanists converged in Quito to discuss a shared agenda for the world’s cities. Such a gathering last occurred at the UN Habitat ll conference in 1996. Since then, 2 billion people have been added to the global population with dizzying results. The need for a global commitment to sustainable urbanization has never been clearer.
To address these themes, I updated the identity for the World Stage, and again collaborated with Proyecto NN to update the design of the World Stage. I also wanted to bring the perspective of artists into the conversation, so I curated a group of internationally recognized creatives whose work addresses the environmental, economic and design questions that are at the center of the conference.
The artists were Luisa Dantas, Haas&Hahn, Michael Leung, Walé Oyéjidé, Tintin Wulia, Barry Rosenthal and Karo Akpokeire. Each artist presented their work in a site-specific gallery space that was constructed as part of the World Stage, and also presented a talk about their work to the audience in attendance. Learn more about the artists here.
Coming from five continents, these artists share a commitment to creating art that interacts with its city of origin while never losing its own perspective. Whether it’s explosively bright paintings on the scale of a city block, a fashion show that forces the viewer to consider the human collateral of globalization, or an interactive workshop that asks participants to create their own passports, the common thread through these works is an invitation to viewers to reconsider their role in a changing urban landscape.
World Urban Forum 9 / Kuala Lumpur / 2017
WUF 9 was the first UN global summit after the adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Sustainable Development Goals. It offered a unique opportunity to discuss the important challenge of how cities are planned and managed, and therefore shape global development and climate change goals.
The World Stage was the premier hub for conversation about the future of cities during WUF 9. As a publicly accessible exhibition space and gallery, the World Stage was where international experts and urban leaders gathered to learn about the strides toward increased resilience and equality being made in cities around the world.
I updated the visual identity and worked again with Proyecto NN to create a new spatial design for the World Stage in Kuala Lumpur. New editions to the stage included a soundproof booth that was used for filming and conducting on-site interviews that made their way live t the Next City website, mobile work spaces for visitor and guests, increased seating capacity and storage, and enhanced security.
The World Stage Reader
In addition to the graphic identity and spatial design, we also always created a small series of publications called The World Stage Reader. Copies of the publications were given out at each event, and also sent to people who could not attend in person. Below are spreads from the publication made in Quito, which highlighted stories from the Next City website that were relevant to the themes of the conference, as well as the work of the participating artists.