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Retractable room adds class

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When Clive Wilkinson Architects asked Jim Miller and his team at J. Miller Canvas Inc. to create a room within a room that would descend from the ceiling when needed and retract when not needed, they welcomed the challenge. The classroom, which J. Miller designed, manufactured and installed in Virginia Commonwealth University, collapses inward on itself as it deploys up into the ceiling, looking somewhat like a thick-legged spider folding itself up. “We literally designed this and built it from some hand sketches of an idea and a shape, and then we figured out how to create the room,” Miller says. “Each of the motors had to take turns engaging or the ‘legs’ of the classroom would crash into each other because of the shape of the building. As one section of the room rises up, the power is killed to other sections of the room.”

To see a video of how the 2009 IAA-winning design functions, visit
Sigrid Tornquist is a freelance author and editor based in St. Paul, Minn. She is also the associate editor of InTents magazine, a publication of the Industrial Fabrics Association International.

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