The starting point for York’s new international media arts festival - the Mediale – in 2018 is a desire for as many people as possible to experience the transformative power of media arts firsthand. This is only achievable with enticing, accessible and thought-provoking programming in venues that are also inspiring.

With that in mind, it was thought that a new interactive pavilion could be the hub of the festival and act as a gateway to increased public participation.

An immersive venue for exhibits, talks and hospitality, the Mediale pavilion would be the ultimate expression of the festival theme and a breathtaking artwork in itself, acting as a striking counterbalance to the area’s historic architecture.

In one of the many planning discussions with the local creative and cultural community, Delma Tomlin (Director of the National Centre for Early Music) brought to our attention the IBM touring pavilion entitled EXHIBIT that lived in York’s Museum Gardens in the summer of 1985. Thirty years on, and not having heard of its existence before, we needed to know more.

With official documentation thin on the ground, we relied on Terry Suthers who was responsible for bringing the pavilion to York to fill the blanks.

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IBM devised the traveling exhibition in 1983 to promote advances in computers and give visitors a glimpse in the future of technology. Touring across 20 European destinations, including Rome, Milan and Paris, the structure was seen by 1.5 million people between 1983 and 1986. It visited Museum Gardens in 1985.

One visitor was Richard Hind. In his own words:

In 1985 I visited the IBM Pavilion (EXHIBIT) in museum gardens, through a school trip for our Computer Studies class. At the time I lived in North Nottinghamshire and it was my first visit to York. I remember two things about that day, firstly it opened my eyes to the potential for a career in the computing industry but it also left a lasting impression of a wonderful city. Three years later I enrolled as a student of Computer Science at the university and never managed to leave again. After ten years working in industry (including five years at Trustmarque Solutions) I decided it was my turn to offer inspiration to the next generation and since then I have been a Tutor of IT and Computing at York College. That is the power of such an event, it really does change lives.

Designed by Renzo Piano the pavilion was a transparent tunnel, sitting on a raised platform that housed its supporting services. It was 48 m long, 12 m wide and 6m high. In order to facilitate easy assembly, disassembly and transportation, the enclosure was made of modular, repetitive elements of wood and polycarbonate. These elements were connected together by carefully crafted aluminium joints to form the weathering envelope as well as its structure.

The temperature and humidity inside the pavilion had to be carefully controlled in order to ensure the correct functioning of the then cutting edge electronic equipment, as well as creating a comfortable environment for the visitor.

The pavilion contributed to bumper visitor figures for York’s museums and increased income from nightly receptions.

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Terry is in possession of the only record of the pavilion we could find and he kindly allowed us to scan his photos and the official brochure for others to enjoy.

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To learn more about the plans for the Mediale and to help share its contents join the new Guild of Media Arts.