A company that got its start forging glass in 1665 is celebrating 350 years in the building-products business with an installation of five pavilions that play on building science concepts and that are currently making stops in select cities around the globe. Saint-Gobain's Future Sensations touches down in the U.S. this week for its brief run in Philadelphia’s Eakins Oval park, an 8-acre public space across from the city’s Museum of Art that regularly features free community programming. The exhibition launched in Shanghai in January and traveled to Sao Paulo before landing in Philadelphia. Its next and final stop is Paris in October.
Saint-Gobain, which owns building-products subsidiary CertainTeed, is based near Paris but runs its North American operations out of Valley Forge, Pa. It designed the pavilions in collaboration with artist Bruno Tric to reflect the diversity of its product portfolio—which spans drywall to electrochromic glazing—while incorporating glass, mirrors, and acoustic paneling among the 26 of its building products that are used in the exhibition. Each installation weighs between 22 and 55 tons and measures from 13 feet to 32 feet in height.
The fifth pavilion, which was added solely for the Philadelphia stop, features a 360-degree video history of the company and its products shown inside a dome structure—a not-so-subtle indication as to why the tour included a stop in North America, a market that's been on the decline recently for the firm and accounted for just 12 percent of its 2014 sales. After all, there’s no such thing as a free lunch.
The exhibition closes on June 6.