This week was supposed to be a celebration. The North American International Auto Show, having moved to June from January’s gloom, was to begin not only inside the TCF Center in Detroit, but outside on the riverfront. That indoor-outdoor concept was one way organizers were looking to reinvent the auto show.
Obviously, the show was cancelled. The announcement was made in March, just before the TCF Center was turned into a 1000-bed field hospital in anticipation of an overflow of COVID-19 patients. In May, the field hospital was closed, though Detroit mayor Mike Duggan said beds would stay–just in case.
There remains a lot we don’t know about what’s ahead. And while the question of when large gatherings will return–and what they’ll look like when they do–may not be at the top of our list of concerns, it is on the list. No one is more interested in the answers than the people involved in the events.
Many of the stands at auto shows at sites like Detroit—or at the Javits Center in New York, the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta, or the Walter E. Washington Convention Center, D.C.—are built by Czarnowski, an international experiential marketing firm with headquarters in Chicago, Shanghai, and Cologne. Because of the slowdown, the company, like so many others, has had to furlough many of its employees. But, drawing on its experience, and seeking a way to employ some of these workers, Czarnowski found a transformational opportunity.
“Because we’re familiar with these environments—convention centers, open fields for hospitality or concerts—when this pandemic hit, and we heard that there were going to be vendors who were going to make testing and treatment centers throughout the U.S., we thought, We can facilitate, and design it,” says Nick Simonette, Czarnowski’s head of business transformation.
Auto show stands are complex pieces of engineering and design, constructed to provide an emotional experience, but also to move people efficiently in and…