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An architecturally significant performance hall gets a new canopy

Swatches | August 1, 2020 | By:

When Hurricane Irma slammed into Florida in 2017, the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall in Sarasota, Fla., was one of many buildings damaged. In particular, the fabric of the hall’s front canopy needed to be replaced. 

The new beige entrance canopy to the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall in Sarasota, Fla., complements the lavender seashell motif of the roof of the hall, designed in the late 1960s by architect William Wesley Peters, Frank Lloyd Wright’s son-in-law and protege. Photo: Signature Structures LLC.

The new canopy needed to protect visitors from inclement weather and complement the roof of the main building, which features a distinctive seashell design by William Wesley Peters, the late chief architect at Taliesin Associated Architects of the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation and Wright’s son-in-law. The hall illustrates many of Wright’s basic architectural philosophies of nature and place, and the building’s purple and lavender color scheme was suggested by Wright’s wife, Olgivanna. Given the building’s architectural standing, the color of the replacement canopy fabric was of utmost importance to the client, along with long-term performance. 

“In general, for fabric structures of all kinds, whatever they’re used for, the fabric has a 20- to 25-year lifespan, after which it needs to be replaced, so there is a significant need for companies that can go out and look at anybody’s building and retrofit and refurbish a new membrane cover,” says Rick Sharp, director of sales and project development with Signature Structures LLC of Easton, Pa., the project management company chosen for the canopy replacement. 

After multiple visits to survey the hall and remove what was left of the old fabric, Signature Structures installed the new fabric—3820 FRLTC from Seaman Corporation’s Shelter-Rite Architectural Fabrics. Seaman Corporation’s ability to custom color match to a specific shade of beige was a huge selling point for the client because of the small amount of fabric needed.

“We actually had to do a significant amount of hunting around to find a fabric that matched close enough to what [the client] wanted,” Sharp says.

Lightweight Manufacturing, Whitehall, Pa., provided fabrication services for the project, which was completed in December 2019. 

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