Transformit Gorham, ME

Project Details

Fabric 1

Trapeze Plus
Producer: Dazian LLC
Supplier: Dazian LLC

Fabric 2

Producer: Associated Fabrics
Supplier: Associated Fabrics

Engineer Name 1

Engineer Company 1

Design Name
Jonathn Crowe

Design Company

Architect Name

Architect Company
Herschend Family Entertainment (HFE)

Fabrication Name

Fabrication Company

Subcontractor Name

Subcontractor Company

Graphics Name

Graphics Company

Project Manager Name
Jonathan Crowe

Project Manager Company

Installation Name
Luigi Difazio

Installation Company

Please describe the project specifications

"Cownose Rays" is a custom fabric sculpture depicting sixteen cownose rays swimming in a school and suspended above “Stingray Hideaway,” the newest exhibit at the Newport Aquarium in Newport, Kentucky. Each ray measures six feet long by eight feet wide and one foot tall, the completed piece is 34’ long by 29’ wide by 10’ high and its installation overhead rises from 15’ to 25’ above the floor.

What was the purpose of this project? What did the client request?

Newport Aquarium’s new "Stingray Hideaway" exhibit was being constructed in an 85’ x 55’ interior exhibit space with two tall walls of windows and a clerestory 40’ above the floor. The exhibit designers Jeff Kraemer and Erica Rutledge with Herschend Family Entertainment (HFE), owners of the Newport Aquarium, wanted to create some shade in the room while extending the stingray theme into the overhead space. Additionally, any installation needed to comply with existing load bearing specifications of the building. A lightweight fabric structure was the ideal solution for the project.

HFE’s initial concept for an overhead fabric structure included very detailed sculptures of cownose rays. The execution of that concept exceeded the project’s budget, so Transformit designer Jonathan Crowe designed a simpler version of the cownose rays that retained the general shape of the rays and was cost effective to fabricate and install, which enabled the project to proceed. A site visit was done to confirm measurements, installation access and rig points, and Crowe worked with HFE’s exhibit designers to position the rays in a sweeping curve, revising the initial approval drawings accordingly, to evoke a school of swimming rays.

What is unique or complex about the project?

Given the humid environment and salt-water conditions of the installation space in the aquarium, the fabrics were treated with Nanotex® by Applied Textiles to improve moisture resistance and all installation and rigging hardware is stainless steel.

To hang each ray individually would have required more than 40 rigging points of various lengths. Transformit’s Crowe designed an overhead frame of lightweight aluminum tubing that enabled the entire sculpture of sixteen cownose rays to hang from only 18 points. The rays were then suspended from this overhead frame with adjustable hardware so that the position of each ray could be precisely adjusted as needed during installation per the client’s direction.

What were the results of the project?

"Cownose Rays" was installed in April 2917 and the "Stingray Hideaway" exhibit with a 17,000-gallon salt-water stingray touch-pool opened in May of 2017, quickly becoming one of the most popular attractions at the Newport Aquarium. One of the features of the touch-pool are tunnels and windows beneath the pool so visitors can view the rays – southern stingrays, cownose rays, and yellow stingrays – from below and get a feel for what it's like to be in their midst. Similarly, the fabric sculpture of a playful school of sixteen cownose rays swims overhead above the pool, extending the immersive experience into the exhibit hall itself.

Content is submitted by the participant. IFAI is not responsible for the content descriptions of the IAA award winners.