The Structural Engineer > Archive > Volume 16 (1938) > Issues > Issue 12 > The Construction of Exhibition Buildings
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The Construction of Exhibition Buildings

THE object of this paper is to introduce to members a subject the study of which in normal practice can only by its nature, occur most infrequently. The author was fortunate to be working in the office of Mr. T. S. Tait, F.R.I.B.A., of Sir John Burnett, Tait and Lorne, to whom was entrusted the layout of the site and the design of many of the buildings in the great 1938 Empire Exhibition at Bellahouston Park, Glasgow. With t,he closing of this display a number of years will elapse before anything of the same scale is again promoted in the British Isles, and it seemed to be an appropriate moment at which to survey the development and tendencies of the design and construction in this somewhat special side of building engineering. “Design” being used in the architectural sense-possibly planning might be the engineer’s expression, or perhaps, too truly, just “ trimmings.” Exhibition construction covers a very wide field, extending over every type of structure from simple little kiosks-which may be attractive pieces of design or blots on the landscape-to the most complicated structures embodied in great town planning schemes. To confine within the limits of one paper such a multiplicity of types is impossible and it is not proposed here to consider permanent halls, such as Olympia and Earl’s Court, nor the fine buildings such as Paris constructs with foresight for its expositions and retains afterwards as permanent assets. Examples of these can be seen in the Grand and Petit Palais from the 1900, or the Trocadero and the three MusBe’s from 1937. Exhibitions are of course, primarily put up to be visited-and to make money. To be visited they must be attractive, and must therefore please and interest their visitors. This is evidently simple-all that has to be done is to have someone of second sight to say in advance. what the millions of differing peaple will want! What is eventually put up depends on circumstances and might be expressd as the products of the exhibitor's enthusiasm multiplied by the designer's delight halved by the allowable costs. Actually the matter of external appearance seems to come down finally to a choice between producing in the temporary buildings by fakework the illusion of being some other previously existing place, or designing the temporary buildings to reflect an external expression of the current development in design. The problems of appearance are for the designer, the problems of construction for the engineer. Very frequently the designer has practically fixed the construction also and it is only in the details that the engineer can apply his knowledge. D. Bethune-Williams

Author(s): Bethune-Williams, D

Keywords: exhibition halls;empire exhibition, glasgow;design;20th century;demolition;europe;frames