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Canopy uplifts NYC

Exteriors, Features | July 1, 2008 | By:

Tentnology erects an elegant canopy for NYC’s subway station in front of the World Trade Center memorial site.

In New York City, adjacent to Manhattan’s most poignant site, a massive white canopy has watched over the comings and goings of subway patrons since September 2007. Tentnology’s Saddlespan™ installation over the entrance to the World Trade Center PATH subway station is helping to foster a sense of hope and restoration to the city’s busiest transit center.

The New York Port Authority (NYPA), working through a contractor, chose Tentnology because of the unique and inspiring look of the Surrey, British Columbia, Canada-based company’s trademark Saddlespan. Understandably, the client wanted to avoid the appearance of a disaster relief tent. With curves reminiscent of the Sydney Opera House, the structure measures 11m high, 18m wide and 26m long and faces the Millennium Hilton Hotel. The lights that span the arches of the canopy provide a welcoming glow for patrons of the busy subway stations.

“We wanted people, when they came out of the subway in the morning, to see something uplifting. And the Saddlespan is [uplifting]. It makes a good roof,” Gery Warner, the tent’s designer, says. Warner co-owns Tentnology with his wife, Suzanne.

For this job, the original Saddlespan design had to be altered and reinforced so that it could stand up to New York’s heavy snow load. While the WTC Saddlespan is about the same size as the typical S5000 model, the frame had to be thicker and stiffer closer to the base. Its frame is high-strength aluminum alloy with additional reinforcements in areas of high stress

“It was like a Saddlespan on steroids,” Suzanne Warner says.

A second challenge was installing the structure at the station. Originally, the NYPA wanted the tent built directly on the site, over the subway. This would have meant working around numerous obstacles, including guard rails, security walls and boardwalks. Tentnology planned to assemble the tent in one position and then pull up and shift the structure into its final position. However, when Tentnology arrived at the site, the NYPA had changed the plan. Because of the high volume of foot traffic through the station during the day, the tent had to be installed between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. the night before the memorial service. So one project became two. First, the tent had to be assembled about 90m off site during the day. Then, with forklifts and a crane, the tent was placed over the subway station in the middle of the night.

“It was challenging, but we got her in there,” Gery Warner says. “We had her all tied down by morning.”

Since 1970, Tentnology has been responsible for more than 20,000 international event structures. However, the Trade Center installation marks new territory for the established company.

“The objective was to create something uplifting, inspiring and attractive to make people feel good at the site. I think we accomplished that,” Suzanne Warner says. “And aside from the bragging rights, we now have a new product line capable of carrying a heavy snow load that is both removable and artistic.”

Brianna Bowne was an IFAI editorial intern during the spring 2008 school year.

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