The recently opened USS Monitor Center at the Mariners’ Museum of Newport News, Va., depends upon some engineered and fabricated fabric components from tension-fabric experts Transformit, Gorham, Maine, to help theater visitors experience the sensation of being underwater in a sinking ship.
Part of a larger 18,000-square-foot educational exhibit, the theater environment tells the story of the USS Monitor and her worthy opponent, the CSS Virginia, in the “battle of the ironclads.” The experience includes a rich array of original artifacts, archival materials, immersive multimedia experiences and recreated ship interiors that transport the visitor back in time to 1862.
The project presented some unusual challenges for Transformit, as the structure had to be virtually invisible—with no inconsistencies in the projection surface where panels meet. The surface also had to capture the coloration associated with being underwater without affecting other projected images. The company lined the theater walls and ceiling with a variety of concave and convex panels that create the sense of being immersed in the ocean. Transformit’s R&D team tested a variety of fabrics and colors to determine the best choice to create this illusion without distorting the color from the projections, and settled on Trapeze Plus® from Dazian LLC. To solve the “invisible structure” challenge, they engineered a track system that eliminated the need to band the edges of the fabric, resulting in a uniform projection surface…and a deep blue “see” for visitors.