How do you transform a real-world building into a working stage set? Transforming a space that is both practical and functional into an aesthetic but accurate portrayal is the key. Aubrey Dunn, a Staff Designer for H2M architects + engineers (H2M), is doing just that: reworking real fire station designs to become the set dressing on the main stage auditorium of FDIC International.

FDIC, which will be held April 15-20, 2024 in Indianapolis, is the largest firefighting conference in the country. Last year, more than 30,000 fire and rescue service professionals attended. H2M designed an interactive walkthrough exhibit in the Lucas Oil Stadium called the Fire Rescue Station of the Future that explored the possibilities of how stations will evolve in years to come. This April, H2M is bringing its talents to the main stage.

“Renderings and other architectural visualizations are one of the most important pieces [of a project] because we’re trying to sell our ideas,” said Dunn. “People aren’t used to seeing construction plans. Having something visualized in a 3D virtual place is the future.”

Dunn’s three-dimensional designs for the main stage are inspired by the apparatus bay of last year’s Fire Rescue Station of the Future. However, there are a few stagecraft tricks that Dunn has had to learn to accommodate the limitations of a stage.

“The walls of the station are angled outward, they’re not 90º, so we can play with perspective.” Dunn said. “The station’s roof also doesn’t extend the full depth of the stage. The client wanted to use the overhead lights of the ballroom, so we only give the impression of a pitched roof.”

Determining the right proportions are critical. Objects around the set need to feel like the right size to the audience, but the design needs to be practical enough that FDIC’s exhibition team can build it in only a day.

Dennis Ross, AIA, is a Practice Leader at H2M and has been mentoring Dunn through this process. With 49 years of industry experience, Ross develops ideas and offers suggestions on object placement. It’s the small details that will make the set look realistic: security cameras, exit signs, American flags, department badges, bulletin boards, trophy cases, and all the firematic tools and equipment you would find in a real working bay.

“H2M is finding new ways to expand our relationship with FDIC beyond the Fire Rescue Station of the Future,” Ross explained. “We are excited for what the future holds.”

– Submitted by Hannah Stewart, Communications Specialist, H2M architects + engineers