As anyone knows, trade show exhibits run the gamut in size from 10' by 10' to the sky's the limit. But how about a 50,000-sq.-ft. exhibit? That's just what the Xerox Corporation had at drupa 2000, a print media trade show in Dusseldorf, Germany, this past May. Project designer Tony Castrigno, of the firm Castrigno and Company, and his team of associates (working for producers PGI) created a mammoth, multimedia display, which accommodated over 70,000 visitors during its two weeks of existence. For perspective, consider this: the largest exhibit at LDI is 2,000 sq. ft. Multiply that by 25 and you have what Castrigno and Company have wrought.

In fact, the exhibit was so large that it could not be contained inside the Messe Dusseldorf, but in a warehouse adjacent to the trade show itself. The space was divided into six exhibit areas, four theatres, and two cafes, with other amenities including restroom enclosures and a kitchen. A daunting job, to be sure--and interestingly, Castrigno, who has his roots in the theatre, approached the project from the narrative point of view. "All of my designers are theatrical," he says. "The first thing they ask is, what is the story?" Out of this process came an exhibit that took visitors through the history of printing, to highlight the diversity and achievement of Xerox products. "We wrote a story arc, with a first act, a second act, and so on," the designer says.

Thus visitors entering the exhibit first rode an escalator, on which they passed displays tracing the history of printed representation, from ancient cave paintings to copies of a Gutenberg Bible, the first folio of Shakespeare plays, and The Magic Flute (the first score to be mechanically printed), leading up to the development of the web page, as well as items not usually associated with printing, such as beer cans and yogurt boxes.

At the top, visitors were greeted by a pair of opening doors, leading to a 360-degree theatre space, in which nine screens wrapped around the room; here they saw a digital video presentation on the future of printing. When the seven-minute film was finished, another set of doors opened, and visitors exited onto the mezzanine, where they could view the exhibit floor below.

On the main exhibit floor, visitors then toured through six themed areas. The E-commerce Environment demonstrated a number of up-to-the-minute techniques, including digital photo scanning and long-distance electronic printing. The Pre-press Environment focused on the techniques of direct-to-plate page composition. The Print Shop was filled with Xerox production printing machines and offset printers; in this area, a 16-page newspaper was printed each day. Visitors experienced the Just in Time Book Factory by walking across a catwalk with a glass floor, giving them an aerial view of the book-printing process. The One-to-One Marketing area featured demonstrations of printed advertising geared to the tastes and interests of specific individuals. This environment was a circular theatre space surrounded by smoked glass; at the end of the presentation, a light cue revealed printing machines placed around audience members. Finally, the 150-seat Docuworld Theatre (which also had a 40-seat VIP lounge) featured a show that culminated in a reveal of the digital printer of the future. Again, Castrigno's theatre-based approach was crucial; each space was "designed like a naturalistic interior for a play," he says, citing the industrial look--right down to the correct rivets--for the book factory setting.

To recuperate from all this information, visitors could repair to the Gutenberg Cafe, which also contained exhibits featuring digital copies of a dozen rare books, including (again) the Gutenberg Bible and an original edition of Proust, among others. The other restaurant was designed in a style that Castrigno calls "industrial elegance," with lots of metal furnishings. Castrigno and Company even designed and built a kitchen to service the restaurants.

Outside of the 50,000 sq. ft. of public areas, there was much more for the company to do, including access for restrooms, a two-story catering tent, and 22 trailers for staff. Also, the designer and his team wrapped the exhibit building's exterior in a sign (approximately 25' high and 280' wide) to give the exhibit an identity for trade show attendees.

The project had an astonishingly short gestation period. Castrigno says it was pitched to Xerox in August, with the company accepting the bid in October. The designer had budget approval in January and the entire project was finished in time for the mid-May opening. "We had 16 people working something like 5,000 design-hours on the project mostly over 10 weeks," he says, adding that his staff works well under pressure because "they're all theatre people. It's about focus, concept, getting it done on a quick schedule." He adds, laughing, "As long as there's plenty of pizza, candy bars, and coffee, we're golden."

As you might expect, the Xerox exhibit required innumerable pieces of equipment, including approximately 2,600 lighting units. The lighting list included 18 Martin Mac 500s, 12 Martin Mac 250s, three Clay Paky Mini Beam HPEs, 110 ETC Source Fours, 19 Source Four Zooms, 147 Source Four PARs, 30 CCT Minuette profiles, 120 CCT Minuette 3" Fresnos, eight CCT Minuette 6" fresnels, nine chrome PAR-56s, 10 chrome PAR-64s, 136 chrome PAR-64 CP88s, 88 MR-16s, six 6" MR-16 mini-strips, and four Mole-Richardson Molefays, and two 7" Wybron Coloram scrollers. In addition, hundreds of other units were deployed as track and display lighting. Lighting control was supplied by two Celco 24/48 and three High End Systems Wholehog 1000 consoles. Approximately four-hundred-and-eighty 2.4kW dimmers were required on the project. Castrigno adds, "Over 2,400A of three-phase 220 power was pulled from the city grid, and the hall was cooled with power on a separate generator system to avoid interference with electronic systems." He adds, "The whole lighting package took three weeks to install, focus, and cue, with only the designer, an associate, and an assistant to focus the entire plot."

Among the project's suppliers were Essential Lighting (theatrical fixtures) and MAC (track and display lighting), Delta Sound (audio), and Creative Tech (video ). Other key members of the design team included John Moyik, director of production at Castrigno and Company; David Thayer, drupa designer; Alexandra Pontone, drupa lighting designer; Kevin Cwalina, drupa design associate (graphics); Colin Young, drupa lighting design associate and director of lighting projects at Castrigno and Company, Brian Haynsworth, drupa lighting design associate, and Toni Barton and Duane Skoog, key CAD modelers. Castrigno also praises PGI, the production company that provided executive and line producers for all media and content graphics, technical producer Jonathan Sweatman, and hired the overall technical director, Phil Greif. Creative director Don Moss and writer and guardian angel Lisa "Felix" Lauerman also played important roles.

Castrigno and Company specializes in large-scale, high-profile jobs, such as Time magazine's 75th anniversary celebration at Radio City Music Hall and the Hong Kong Handover Ceremonies, as well as designs for Mercedes-Benz, Johnson and Johnson, IBM, and many others. Nevertheless, the Xerox exhibit at drupa should prove to be one of the most memorable of Castrigno and Company's achievements.

For more on the Xerox project, click on www.castrignodesign.com.