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Making a name for themselves

From awe-inspiring tent ceiling designs to award-winning marine refurbishments, take a closer look at some of the most beautiful uses of textiles across multiple industries.

Features | July 1, 2024 | By: Maura Keller

From the gorgeous ceiling art to the towering crystal chandeliers, guests in this wedding reception space could easily forget they were in a tent. Image: All Occasions Event Rental

Towering visuals

When it comes to awe-inspiring details embedded within a wedding reception space, this one takes the cake. Traditionally, tenting structures used for wedding events are teeming with stunning accessories, from lighting and flooring to tablescapes. And while many wedding clients embrace accentuating the tent ceiling with cascading fabric, florals or lighting, rarely do they strive to have the entire tent ceiling reflect their own dining room ceiling.

Originally, the clients desired to utilize several high-resolution projectors aimed at the inside of the reception tent ceiling to project various images, including a sunset during dinner, followed by more energetic images as the band played. “But that option was outside of their budget, so they settled on replicating their dining room ceiling art on the tent’s ceiling instead,” says Tommy Wilson, director of event services at All Occasions Event Rental in Cincinnati, Ohio.

The wedding and reception were held for 220 guests under a Losberger De Boer uniflex 82-by-197-foot structure tent with a half-clear, half-white roof and interior gable division. The clear 82-by-82-foot portion was used for the ceremony and cocktails, and the white 82-by-115-foot portion was used for the dinner reception and dancing. “The biggest challenge, after the expense, was the logistics of fitting all the elements into the space,” says Wilson.

The draping used throughout this tented space accented the artwork installed on the ceiling, making it the focal point of the room. Image: All Occasions Event Rental

As Wilson explains, one of the biggest hurdles in projecting the couple’s dining room ceiling image was the size of print required to cover the desired space, since the client’s dining room was smaller than the reception/dinner area. “They wanted it scaled to the entire 82-by-115-foot ceiling, not just the print we ended up with,” Wilson says. 

The All Occasions team engaged a specialty photographer to take many small, high-resolution images of the ceiling. “He then stitched them together for an artist to tweak. The dining room ceiling was curved up and our image would be nearly flat,” Wilson says. “Once the image was approved, we sent it to Fred’s Tents & Canopies in Waterford, N.Y., to make the 36-by-48-foot print.”

The result was a visually stunning ceiling treatment that was truly one-of-a-kind, drawing guests’ eyes upward the moment they entered the room and setting the tone for the lavish reception that followed.

Amphitheater acoustics 

Birdair designed a high-performance, lightweight 50,000-square-foot tensile membrane roof reminiscent of manta rays for The Sound amphitheater in Clearwater, Fla. Image: Birdair Inc.

Outdoor amphitheaters often are beacons for arts aficionados who enjoy listening to music or watching artistic performances in the great outdoors. While an amphitheater’s proper placement is paramount, the architectural designs of the building and roofing structure play huge roles in the acoustical impact of the space.

Working alongside architectural firm Stantec and general contractor Skanska, Birdair, a tensile fabric structure manufacturer in Williamsville, N.Y., embarked on the challenge of designing and building a lightweight, high-performance roof to grace The Sound, an iconic waterfront performance center in Clearwater, Fla.

“Drawing inspiration from the elegant form of manta rays, the resulting 50,000-square-foot tensile membrane structure stands as a testament to Imagine Clearwater’s vision,” says Michele Roth Taylor, business development manager and director of marketing at Birdair. “This innovative addition, a cornerstone of an extensive $84 million redevelopment endeavor, symbolizes over two decades of meticulous planning and dedication.”

As part of the roofing structure design, Birdair incorporated its Tensotherm™ fabric composite system, which proved to be ideal for this particular application. Known for its insulation properties, this tensile fabric composite system became an open-air roofing solution, due to its exceptional acoustical advantages. Translucent and insulated, this tensile fabric has proved invaluable where robust acoustic control is required.

To elevate the acoustical performance of the space, Birdair incorporated PTFE Tensotherm™ insulated fabric panels across the central sections of the roof. When illuminated, the subtle curves and simple arches are visually striking architectural elements of the structure. Image: Birdair Inc.

As Roth explains, through a meticulous analysis of various membrane options, the design team selected a blend of Tensotherm and a single layer of PTFE-coated fiberglass panels as the optimal choice for meeting the amphitheater’s acoustic needs. “Whether in expansive arenas or echoing gymnasiums, the introduction of a Tensotherm roof can transform vast spaces into cozy, intimate settings, effectively assisting in blocking out the roar of a passing jet or encapsulating the energy of a pulsating rock concert,” Roth says.

Incorporating an innovative tensile roofing structure produces a unique set of challenges.

JT Thomas, director of construction at Birdair, says that The Sound amphitheater stands out as one of the most demanding yet fulfilling projects he’s encountered in his career. “The endeavor required a remarkable effort from our team, including the skilled ironworkers from Local 397, who adeptly navigated evolving site conditions during installation,” Thomas says.

With its sheer complexity, precise coordination among engineering, fabrication and installation teams was paramount. The amphitheater, towering 88 feet at its apex and spanning the width of a football field, incorporates more than 1 million pounds of structural steel that was transported on 77 flatbed trucks.

Image: Birdair Inc.

“The strategic use of PTFE Tensotherm insulated panels in the central sections of the roof elevates its acoustical performance,” Thomas says. And every facet of the structure, except for the steel truss lacing, is meticulously curved or intersecting, creating a visually striking architectural marvel. As Roth explains, what may appear as a simple arch to the eye subtly curves upward and outward to the east or west.

“Our team takes immense pride in the craftsmanship displayed throughout the project, and we eagerly anticipate The Sound amphitheater becoming a focal point for both Clearwater locals and visitors worldwide,” Roth says. “From inception to completion, the collaborative efforts of the entire project team have been instrumental in bringing this extraordinary park and 50,000-square-foot amphitheater to fruition. Birdair is profoundly honored to contribute to this remarkable achievement for the city of Clearwater.”

What’s old is new again

Using warm, neutral tones, Precision Custom Canvas incorporated Bondi by Ennis Fabrics and Ultraleather by Ultrafabrics® to bring an older vessel up to date. Image: Precision Custom Canvas

For many consumers, recreational boats and other marine vessels are much-loved and frequently used forms of entertainment. As such, they experience a tremendous amount of wear and tear from exposure to the sun, water and harsh chemicals. Recently, Precision Custom Canvas Inc. in St. Catharines, Ont., Canada, earned an Award of Excellence and an Outstanding Achievement award in the Marine Fabricators Association Fabrication Excellence Awards for two marine interior upholstery projects that breathed new life into well-used vessels.

According to Jeff Newkirk, MFC, owner and principal designer of Precision Custom Canvas, a client had acquired a 2018 Cantius 60 but wanted the interior of the boat to reflect the newest design of the 2023 model.

“The goal of the project was to update and warm the interior by switching from a premium vinyl covering to a cozy fabric covering on the upholstery,” Newkirk says. Using Bondi by Ennis Fabrics and Ultraleather by Ultrafabrics®, Precision Custom Canvas replaced the existing Ultraleather on the interior, as it had succumbed to UV damage. The boat’s two Stidd chairs remained covered in Ultraleather and featured refreshed coverings. The new design boasts large square blocks paneled together for a quilted look.

Image: Precision Custom Canvas

“The biggest challenge to this project was balancing the dimensions for each square of the grid design, as the cushion widths and depths changed from section to section,” Newkirk says. This was particularly challenging at the inside corner of the dinette area, where the corner seat cushion has different dimensions than each adjoining seat cushion and the two back sections above, and all needed the seams to match. This was faired out in the patterns by aligning overlaps and visualizing the finished position.

The varying sizes of the cushions also required careful work to keep the blocking scaled properly and the grids matching up as the cushions turned around corners. To accomplish the reupholstering, the team had to dismantle and reinstall components by moving sections of the boat down the stairs to the sleeping quarters, given how the boat was assembled.

Using perennial selections with a blue theme, the captain’s chair was re-covered in Challenger vinyl, the ceiling panels were covered in Guardian vinyl, both from Ennis Fabrics, and the cockpit upholstery featured Sunbrella®. Image: Precision Custom Canvas

Another marine project earned Precision Custom Canvas an Outstanding Achievement award for bringing a bright, playful interior to a Bruckmann Abaco 40. Specifically, the project included the addition of the vinyl selections for the captain’s chair and the upholstered ceiling panels.

Using perennial selections with a blue theme, the captain’s chair was re-covered in Challenger vinyl, the ceiling panels were covered in Guardian vinyl, both from Ennis Fabrics, and the cockpit upholstery featured Sunbrella®. “Selecting a blue vinyl to best fit with the various shades of blue in the fabrics led us to redo the dash covering twice, as the initial selection was determined to be too bright,” Newkirk says.

Image: Precision Custom Canvas

“The articulating backrest in the main cabin was a bit of a challenge to get the arc of travel correct so the back would land in the proper spot for both forward-facing and aft-facing seating,” Newkirk says. Stainless steel brackets designed for an articulating backrest in the main cabin worked smoothly, allowing the backrest to lift and drop down on either side of the seat as desired. “It was also challenging to design some of the cushions to be multiuse; we turned a 4-inch-thick seat cushion into two 2-inch-thick cushions that could be taken up to the foredeck and double as sunpads,” he says.

Image: Precision Custom Canvas

The Precision Custom Canvas team also designed the “kids’ room” beds so the lower seating would pull out into a larger bed, using the backrests as filler cushions to complete the bed. In addition, the geometric pattern of the stateroom fabric was “a bit of fun” to line up, but a great pattern match along the hinge seam was achieved. 

Image: Precision Custom Canvas

Maura Keller is a freelance writer based in Minneapolis, Minn. 

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