In a Compelling Installation, Lorem Ipsum Puts Russia’s History on Full Display

The New York–based creative studio devises a thoughtful, tech-forward exhibition at Platov Airport in Rostov-On-Don, Russia, that recounts the region's rich Cossack history.

In anticipation of the 2018 World Cup, Russia undertook multiple ambitious infrastructure projects, including the construction of an airport in Rostov-On-Don, a picturesque port city near the Ukrainian border. The 530,000-square-foot facility was named Platov International Airport after Cossack leader Count Matvei Ivanovich Platov (1753–1818), the Russian military general who commanded the Don Cossacks in the Napoleonic Wars. A semi-military and self-governed ethnic group, the Cossacks played an important role in the cultural development of Russia and Ukraine. (Today, between 3.5 and 5 million people worldwide self-identify as Cossack.) The Platov Airport also tells its namesake’s story through a permanent interactive exhibition designed by New York–based creative studio Lorem Ipsum. Abigail Honor, a partner at the firm, shares how it all came together.

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In mid-2017, Airports of Regions approached us with a brief uniquely tailored to our skills as a creative studio: Tell the story of Platov and the Cossacks with a cutting-edge, media-driven approach fitting for the new airport’s forward-thinking and technologically savvy travelers. The exhibition, titled “Platov and his Time,” pays tribute to the crucial role that General Platov and his army played in shaping Russia’s history. By remaining faithful to historical imagery while incorporating modern display technology, the show fits seamlessly into the airport’s distinctly contemporary look and feel. We tried to capture the spirit, struggle, and story of Platov and the Cossacks with five experiential multimedia installations that incorporate interactivity and high-quality video.

We had only five weeks to bring the installation to life, so timing was a major hurdle. Since it was essential that we include historical information that pays homage to Don Cossack culture, we instructed our research team to deliver the content in an engaging, digestible way with minimal text. The exhibition’s centerpiece is a cylindrical installation, lined with multiple LED displays, that creates a continuous screen on the interior. Tilted, with one edge almost touching the floor and the other more than eight feet off the ground, it draws visitors into viewing a short film—shot with a drone in 8K resolution—that depicts a day in the life of a Cossack three centuries ago. Visuals of galloping horses and endless plains, captured from a flight along the river Don, are augmented by audio from 16 speakers mounted around the top of the cylinder.

Another challenge was making the exhibition unobtrusive to passersby, but immersive and engaging enough to capture and sustain their attention. The “Battle of Borodino,” a 24-foot-long painting derived from a series of 19-century artworks, depicts the battle between the Cossacks and the French. Though captivating at first glance, the painting visually springs to life when seen through a pair of electronic viewfinders that face it. Beyond that, we needed to consider the new space’s great scale, heavy traffic, and international audience, as well as predict how people might interact with an installation in the middle of an airport. We ultimately created an experience that transcends language so that travelers of all walks can understand the story.




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