BA Design degree show – assisting in the construction of Claudia Del Olmo Russo’s ‘Deconstructing Western Walls’

Below is footage of my use of the hot wire used to cleanly cut over 700 blocks of polystyrene, which would eventually become the structure for the BA 3rd year exhibition piece design by Claudia Del Olmo Russo whom I was assisting in fabricating this installation. These blocks would accompany 264 genuine bars of soap which had been manufactured in Aleppo, Syria, and wrapped in news print featuring graphics of a variety of Westernised views on the wars of the middle east and the refugee crisis.

The significance of the soaps having been crafted in Aleppo reconnects with one of the original industries of Syria before the war, in the intention to design an educational experience and a subsequent product surrounding issues of media representation.

soap installation (1)
nearing completion of 700 ‘soap’ blocks
soap installation (9)
Some of the issues with working outside with mild winds…a promising effect though
soap installation (5)
Laying out the structure of the walls

In aiming to build an architectural structure that would invite viewers in to watch Claudia’s video of the formation of the project, we needed a lightweight and easily transportable material that could be quickly constructed when in the exhibition space. Large polystyrene blocks presented themselves to us and I got on cutting these to the specified size of the real soaps, before they were wrapped to mimic their effect. The real soaps would also form part of the structure for viewers to take and buy with proceeds going to charity.

soap installation (32)soap installation (24)

Once wrapped and in the space, we could begin laying out the blocks and testing the best arrangements for people to engage with and be informed by the video. The images and text on the wrapping paper were coordinated to build up an image of the media interpretations of the Syrian crisis in contrast to the soaps they contained being a link to the original industries now threatened by the wars. The choice to stack them in this way was based on the traditional methods of stacking the soaps.

soap installation (35)


exhibition (4)
Final installation piece taken on the opening night of the exhibition


Arthur, G. ‘Aleppo soap: War threatens an ancient tradition’ [article] BBC News, 15th May 2013. [accessed: 16/06/18]

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