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The Rady Shell

Projects | November 1, 2022 | By:

Seen from a distance, the Rady Shell at Jacobs Park, in San Diego, Calif., is a striking sight. In daylight, it looks like something that might have emerged from San Diego Bay, but at night it becomes a popular concert venue, with an enormous stage, 3,386 programmable LED lights and a powerful amplification system. 

First opened in the Summer of 2021, The Rady Shell at Jacobs Park was made possible by an agreement between the San Diego Symphony and the Unified Port of San Diego. Art, architecture and engineering come together in a package wrapped in stretched fabric that defines its distinctive look. The $85 million shell was designed by London-based SoundForms and its Flanagan Lawrence fabric shell division. The 13,000 square feet of performance space and back-of-house facilities accommodates a full orchestra and chorus, and the sloped, flexible seating space can hold up to 10,000 audience members. While it may look light enough to float on water, the stage and shell weigh 236,000 pounds.

“The organic curved forms emerged from rapid hand sketches which were translated into geometrical studies using the computer,” says Jason Flanagan of Flanagan Lawrence. 

The Rady Shell consists of six rib-like steel frames over which white PTFE fabric stretches to form five scallops. The details of wrapping the shell fell to Australia-based Fabritecture, which specializes in tensile fabric structures. Inner and outer layers of fabric enclose and conceal much of the essential equipment. A powerful system of speakers is concealed behind the section of fabric ringing the front of the shell, and speaker clusters suspended onstage facing the audience provide clear and powerful sound.

The Rady Shell was an 2021 IAA Outstanding Achievement Award winner in the Hybrid Tension Structures category. Photos:

Project Name: The Rady Shell, San Diego, Calif.

Performance Shell Design: Soundforms with Flanagan Lawrence, London, England

Architect: Tucker Sadler Architects, San Diego, Calif.

Fabric installation: Fabritecture, Queensland, Australia

Material Used: PTFE

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