Considered more valuable than gold in Inca society, fabric and feather ornaments were used as offerings to the gods. Textile design had influenced all aspects of Peruvian arts from pre-Inca periods to the height of the Inca Empire and continue to inspire art and design in Peruvian culture today. The exhibit, open to the public from November 2019 to September 2020, aimed to communicate these key messages to visitors in engaging and unexpected ways.
Our goal was to make visitors feel as though they were immersed in ancient Peru. Key artifacts, together with diorama, reconstruction of architectural ruins, video, sound and interactive media, were set in chronological order to create themed exhibit zones. For instance, the sound of birds could be heard in the area where feather pieces were displayed and draped fabrics hung as canopies above the market area to create the impression of a local market.
Threads were used to visually express the relationship between textiles and Peruvian culture. They were also used as a design motif linking all of the exhibit elements together. The motif was applied to the exhibit design spatially, architecturally, graphically and typographically, creating a sense of place.
Upon arrival at the museum, an installation created by a series of physical threads running from the bottom of the stairs to the second floor visually connects the two exhibit galleries, leading visitors through the exhibit until the threads transform into the outline of the Peruvian map. The pattern was also printed on fabric dividers, graphic panels, inforails and labels. As visitors continued on their journey, the pattern gradually transformed from simple lines to funeral masks, trees, landscapes and products in markets to express the topics featured in different zones. At the finale, visitors were invited to join an interactive weaving experience, where they could create their own pattern using motifs found in the exhibit’s artifacts.
One of our favourite design details was the consistent application of the thread pattern throughout the exhibit. If you examined the graphic details up close, you'd find that even the choice of typography and the texture of the maps are consistent with the design language of threads. The exhibit typeface for headings was Zipline, which shares an amazing similarity to the textile motif we designed. We also created thread-inspired patterns to fill various geographic areas on maps to indicate pre-Inca cultural areas.
Another favourite is the thread installation at the stairs. The installation is two storeys high, which has never been done before at the museum. To get the approval for the design, we created a temporary installation in a meeting room using threads of yarn and magnets to connect various surfaces within the room. When the client team arrived at the meeting, it was instantly approved.
The exhibit received over 130,000 visitors. The popularity of the exhibit was incredible, considering the impact of the pandemic. Many visitors expressed their appreciation on social media, often inviting others to visit. The interactive weaving experience received awards from the Society of Experiential Graphic Design (SEGD) and Art Directors Club of Europe (ADC*E).
Photography: Edmund Li RGD, Andrea Herrera Betancourt, Laura Sellors
Pointe-à-Callière, cité d’archéologie et d’histoire de Montréal
Take a virtual tour of the exhibit below:
Edmund has over 20 years of experience designing interpretive and wayfinding signage, exhibits, donor recognition and interactive media for public environments around the world. With his architectural mindset and graphic design background, Edmund’s work often features a high level of integration between 2D and 3D elements, transforming linear messages into environmental statements — inspiring users to engage in meaningful ways. Creating design programs that are accessible to visitors of all ages, ability and demography is an important aspect of Edmund’s design philosophy. Prior to Entro, Edmund held senior design roles at Reich+Petch Design International and Forge Media + Design.
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