Tent projects show off their creativity, reach for new heights and get big results.
By Janice Kleinschmidt
According to the Wikipedia entry for the word “tent” (as accessed in June 2012), “there are only so many ways to drape a simple piece of cloth over a framework.” Tents changed so little that George Washington’s soldiers slept in tents that wouldn’t have seemed unusual even to Roman soldiers. While that may be true, there are many more tents today that are far more complex, creative and cutting edge than this limited interpretation would suggest.
Work of art
The Wall Street Journal’s May reporting on New York City’s four-day Frieze Art Fair (the inaugural U.S. version of London’s Frieze Art Fair) wasn’t about the paintings and sculpture on exhibit, but about the 1,500-foot-long serpentine temporary structure set up on Randall’s Island, N.Y., to host 180 galleries, plus pop-up stores and eateries.
Commissioned to bring their creativity to a prefabricated layout, Brooklyn-based architectural firm Solid Objectives: Idenburg Liu (SO-IL) devised a plan to connect six 50-by-60-meter clearspan tents with transparent wedges that increased the total space by more than 31,000 square feet and broke up what would have been one long hallway, had the tents butted up end to end. SO-IL enhanced the resulting serpentine shape with 45 vinyl strips on both ends.
“The wedges were created with varying length purlins from just 2.5 feet at the narrow end to a standard 16.5-foot bay at the wide end,” says George Strickland, vice president of national sales for Karl’s Event Services. The Oak Creek, Wis.-based company was responsible for developing the design of the structure to meet SO-IL’s vision. “It took approximately one week to make the purlins for the wedge sections [424 pieces],” Strickland says. “The entrance strips were four feet wide at the top and tapered down to two feet at the bottom. It took six hours just to dimension the fabric fingers and release them for production because each one was unique. They took a total of 208 hours of fabricating.”
Karl’s coordinated structural engineering with a Washington, D.C., firm and used 85 staff members from its New York and other locations throughout the United States for the installation. It took 14 days for the main structure and 44 days in total. The event ran May 4-7.
“We had a very tight build schedule that required daily adjustments to the delivery schedule,” Strickland says of the logistics that required more than 1,400 trucks, including more than 100 tractor-trailers. “Factors such as weather also played a part in making the trucking schedule a moving target.”
Value Vinyls Inc. of Grand Prairie, Texas, provided Karl’s with about 295,000 square feet of 18-ounce, PVC-coated polyester fabric for the project.
Intending to elevate people and brands at events, C6(n) of Hampshire, England, adopted the hexagon shape and “applied [Dutch artist] M. C. Escher’s inspiration of impossibility,” says C6(n) chairman Michael Hall. The working prototype for this unusual temporary structure covers a footprint of about 33 by 39 feet and accommodates a maximum regulation load of 50 people on a raised deck.
The 8.5-foot Beta Bob is made almost exclusively of carbon fiber composite parts to save weight. [The name C6(n) refers to carbon (C), the atomic number for carbon, the number of sides to the structure (6) and “the degree to infinite possibility” (n).] “This means we need no heavy machinery to assemble the structure, allowing for a wider range of sites, smaller vehicles for transporting the parts and, importantly, a small crew for assembly,” Hall says.
The company chose a three-ply stretch fabric with UV inhibitors and antimicrobial additives from RHI in South Africa. “It is easier to stretch the fabric into the pagoda-type form than it is to cut and shape a PVC top,” explains design director Chris Pitchford. “By using composites and lightweight fabric, we have made a double-decker that is approximately one-fifth of the weight of more traditional structures. Happily, we have also found that once production is up and running, there is a large saving of labor—no cutting, welding, finishing in a composite part.”
With the light weight making wind a major factor, C6(n) spent considerable time conducting wind-load analysis (the structure is designed to withstand winds up to 60 mph), as well as static, pattern and dynamic loading, and is finalizing a third-party structural integrity report for international code compliance.
C6(n) debuted the Beta Bob at a land/water/air racing and demonstration event in June 2011 to raise money for two young men rowing the Atlantic Ocean for charity, and it made its second outing at an air ambulance fundraising polo match.
“What we have done is incorporate an initiative that puts causes at the center, with business and pleasure either side,” Hall says, adding that in the winter the company will turn its attention to the indoor exhibition market.
“The technology is not just a structure. It is a system for elevating experiences that is capable of vertical and horizontal expansion and therefore can be any shape or size,” Hall says. The fabric components also allow for a range of colors and corporate imagery.
C6(n)’s business model is as unconventional as its Beta Bob. “Instead of being an alternative marquee supplier, we are searching for others who like us and we like them, share the same values and care about a worthwhile purpose while making a reasonable profit,” Hill says. “We want to work with groups with whom we can share a license to exploit our technology together.”
Bigger and better
For an event with the name “Ultra” in the title and VIP ticket prices starting in the hundreds of dollars, one doesn’t just throw up any tent. So when TentLogix of Stuart, Fla., was selected to provide VIP venues for the three-day Ultra Music Festival XIV in Miami, Fla., in March 2012, the company designed five pavilions that included two Arcum structures made by Losberger of Germany.
The largest, a two-story Arcum Emporium (112-by-82-feet), was the first 30-meter Emporium to be installed in North America. “The unique aspects of the structure are the elegant, curved roofline with 6-foot patio overhangs on each side and the ability to use it as a two-story structure with approximately 11 feet of minimum clearance on both the bottom and top floors,” says TentLogix owner Nate Albers.
The structure is composed primarily of 24-ounce coated PVC fabric, a series of pin-supported interior and end frames made of custom-designed structural aluminum alloy, steel struts and bracing cable. “The roof and walls are clad in non-prestressed fabric skin connected to the aluminum frames,” Albers explains. “The second floor is supported by aluminum vertical uprights with steel inserts and brackets every 6 feet 4 inches to create a very functional event space on the main floor and completely unobstructed event space on the second story.”
A crew of 14 erected the structure—including flooring and related components—over five days. “The biggest challenge was taking the time to make sure all the measurements were exact and the flooring and uprights completely level, as the system is an engineered structure that utilizes precision components,” Albert says.
With modular Arcum components TentLogix can build one each of four sizes: 15, 20, 25 and 30 meters. “All of the four sizes can be configured as a two-story Emporium structure,” Albers says. The company originally purchased the 30-meter Arcum tent in 2010 for the World Equestrian Games. For this year’s music festival, the company brought in 22-foot uprights and the Emporium flooring and railing system to create the two-story structure.