Modular structures for outdoor displays

By Stephanie Chavez

The most important goal when designing trade show booths, pop-up stores and product ‘activation’ events is to capture attention and attract walk-up visitors. Marketers spend months and dedicate significant budgets to planning these display structures.

One trend that is assisting their efforts is the availability of versatile, outdoor-durable modular structures. Their components are designed for easy assembly of temporary ‘buildings,’ which can be completely branded, inside and out, for a unique appearance. They can even be outfitted with climate control technologies to help provide greater comfort at events.

Temporary, but built to last

External graphics enable a new form of out-of-home (OOH) advertising, in a variety of sizes.

External graphics enable a new form of out-of-home (OOH) advertising, in a variety of sizes.

“When you have 10,000 or 100,000 people in a large event space, where there are plenty of distractions, having some sort of uniquely designed structure will help attract the attention of the crowd,” says Tim Bookout, director of sales for Event Architecture, which specializes in building such structures. “On top of that, with climate control, you can shut the doors, you avoid the weather, it’s quieter and you control the lighting. So, compared to tents and other open-air display options, when you use a structure like this, you have total control of the branded environment.”

Event Architecture’s structures are usually set up for anywhere from a few days to a couple of weeks, although they are engineered to be sturdy enough to last a couple of years. They are also portable, which is an advantage over many other traditional semi-permanent event structures of the same size.

“A lot of people today are turning shipping containers into meeting spaces and brand activation structures, but the transport of those structures can be a problem,” says Bookout. “Shipping containers are huge and heavy. Not only will one of them use all of the available space on a truck, but you will also need a crane to lift it off the truck and set it in place.”

Modular display structures, on the other hand, become more compact for shipping.

“You can fit several of these structures on a single truck,” says Bookout, “and then it just takes manual lifting or, in some cases, a standard forklift to take one off a truck and set it in place, rather than a crane.”

To accomplish this ease of portability while also ensuring durability, Event Architecture uses aluminum supports, which are engineered for stability and safety. A double layer of a coated fabric membrane and a securely bonded trim called an ‘air cell’ provide rigidity and strength. Once these materials are fitted securely within aluminum framing channels, they are pressurized to create tension.

“The pump for the pressurizing process is similar to a leaf blower,” says Bookout. “So, it’s like putting a leaf blower on for a minute or two and then you’re done. You just cap it off, and it should be good for a couple of days.”

Both smaller and larger models are completely weather-resistant and, as mentioned, ready for outfitting with climate control systems, using either a unit that sits in one corner or a fully ducted system that runs along the sides and underneath the floor.

One size does not fit all

The modular nature of the structures also means their sizes can be changed. For a single-storey model that is 3 m (10 ft) tall, either 6 or 10 m (20 or 33 ft) wide and 2.4 m (8 ft) deep, the depth can be extended by further increments of 2.4 m, simply by adding more air cells.

A uniquely designed structure can attract attention in a crowd.

A uniquely designed structure can attract attention in a crowd.

Another option is a free-standing deck that fits on top of the single-storey base model, thus adding a second storey.

“This allows visitors to take a quiet break from the action by entering the first floor or to go up top and see the whole event,” Bookout explains. “That makes a big impression.”

Another single-storey base model is twice as tall, providing a higher ceiling for visitors. It too can be expanded in depth simply by attaching additional air cells.

“When you have a 6-m (20-ft) high structure that’s 8.5 to 10.7 m (28 to 35 ft) deep, you can create whatever you want inside that environment, from a pop-up store to a restaurant to a nightclub,” says Bookout. “We can even put a deck inside the unit, so there are two enclosed storeys.”

The setup for such structures will generally take a few hours for a group of around six people to complete, depending on the specific configuration’s size. This is comparable to most other large outdoor structures used for events. Smaller ‘express’ structures, however, only take a group of three people about 10 minutes to set up.

“For those models, the front and back walls are hinged,” Bookout explains. “So, you basically fold them at the hinges, put a few structural bars in place, insert the air cell and you’re up and running, really fast.”

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