Installation Architecture, 2014 Tribeza Fashion Show Backdrop

Nov. 7, 2014 to Jan. 21, 2015, All Day
Exhibition opening: Installation Architecture

Matt Fajkus Architecture
Materials Lab

The fleeting nature of installation architecture belies the coordination and planning required to bring it to fruition. The wall featured here is a recreated section from the backdrop of this year’s Tribeza Austin Art + Culture Magazine fashion show,  which caps Austin Style Week.  A collaboration between the Materials Lab and Matt Fajkus Architecture, the backdrop had to meet several criteria within a tight budget. First, the design had to exude a presence that could compete with the 16,000 sf open venue space at fair market. Second, the backdrop had to be installed and completely disassembled in the course of just one day - leaving little room for error and adding another layer of coordination with the staging, lighting, and venue crews on site. Finally, the scheme had to respond to the theme of Texas landscape.

Corrugated metal was identified early on as a material found in both urban and rural texas landscapes. The industrial nature of the material also fit the venue’s stripped down aesthetic, which is dominated by a multiple barrel roof and exposed structure. Cognizant of the material waste that is too often a part of temporary architecture, the team chose to use reclaimed panels salvaged from an airplane hangar at the Austin Haile Flight Center. Initial experimentation played with the removal and inducement of patinas and finishes, but in the end the panels took on a look of their own - weathering naturally into vivid hues of orange, white, and yellow.  

To soften the rough texture of the rusted metal, the team introduced a sheer fabric element that punctuates the flat panels in undulating forms that further reference the texas landscape. In response to the scheduling demands of the installation, the light forms were conceived of as individual modules. Frames are constructed of 1-1/2” steel angle with welded rebar webbing, over which the sheer fabric is stretched. Material research identified four-way stretch nylon power mesh as the textile of choice, given its extreme stretch and subtle sheen. Both the corrugated metal panels and the steel frame light panels were dimensioned so that they could be handled by a single person and fit into the bed of a standard trailer.

The installation achieved a central presence in the space through scale and illumination. One 8’ vertical wall composed of alternating metal and fabric panels runs the length of the stage; to maximize the impact of the backdrop, the wall extended up and over - creating a shed roof that stretched up to a beam located 17’ above the audience. Fluorescent light fixtures installed behind every fabric panel illuminated the backdrop, causing it to glow from within. At the same time, the lighting exposed the vaulted corrugated metal of the venue roof - bringing together the larger space and the temporary installation.

A major challenge to the project was the lack of structural support to tie into on-site: only an I-beam running across the front of the stage, 17’ up, and the plywood surface of the stage 2’ off the ground. The team came up with a unique solution to strap a laminated beam into the channel of the i-beam that was attached by security door hinges to a continuous top plate. This allowed for the roof wall to be assembled module by module from one end to the other in a suspended vertical configuration, before being tilted at a 45 degree angle into place. The bottom plate of this wall was then attached by hinges to the top plate of the 8’ wall, allowing for the team to swing the assembly into place at an opportune time and transfer the majority of the load onto the stage supports. Disassembly of the wall was straightforward and completed in less than an hour. 

Project team: Jody Broccoli-Hickey, Yang Chen, Matt Fajkus, AIA, Kevin Hamman, Thomas Johnston, Mitch Peterson, Jordan Teitelbaum, Jen Wong

Exhibition team: Alvan Bidal-Sanchez, Jody Broccoli-Hickey, Yang Chen, Jamie Epley, Kevin Hamman, Biying Kong, Stancey Moore, Jordan Teitelbaum, Jen Wong

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University Co-op Materials Lab >>