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Fabric canopy helps cantina practice sustainability

May 1st, 2009 / By: / Case Studies, Exteriors, Feature

The new Sante Fe Opera cantina observes sustainable conventions and leaves the patrons fed and dry.

I love sitting underneath the canopy at the Cantina on a rainy day,” says architect Hugh Hardy, principal of H3 Hardy Collaboration Architecture, designer of the new Sante Fe Opera dining facility in the New Mexico desert. “You can watch the rain course over the fabric roof and not get wet as a thunderstorm sweeps through the area. It’s very elemental, and the connection with the extraordinary landscape very direct.”

In addition to the experiential pleasure that Hardy and all patrons of the dining facility may get, they can take comfort from the fact that the rainwater hitting the fabric roof is collected underneath the patio and adjoining kitchen in a 45,480 liter cistern for redistribution later to irrigate the landscaped grounds. Two low points in the middle of the fabric structure serve as collection points that funnel the water to the cistern. Water, and its use, is of particular concern in the Santa Fe valley with very strict regulations regarding the control of rainwater runoff from a building.

Design of the tensile fabric roof of the cantina, as well as the main stage canopy nearby is by FTL Design Engineering Studio. In addition to the ridge and valley form of the cantina roof, fabric is brought down slightly on the sides to shield diners from the winds that blow through the valley. “In a dry, hot climate such as Santa Fe,” says FTL senior principal Nicholas Goldsmith, “our approach for the tensile structure was to develop a sun shade that would attach to the cantina building and create a warm luminous glow, eliminating the need for artificial interior lighting. The relatively low profile of the roof structure reflects the climate considerations by expressing the governing wind criteria over any snow loading.”

The tensile structure design is integrated with the new Cantina building and supported on one side by the special truss columns and building structure, and on the other side by post and cables — opening to eastern views of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains and the Jemez Mountains to the west.

It seems appropriate that the cantina roof be made from fabric. Until last year the stage crew, with great agony, at the beginning of the season used to put up a rental circus tent for dining, and then take it down at the end. The tent not only was badly ventilated and excessively hot, it required substantial labor and time — time and money better spent on the main productions throughout the summer-only festival season. “The tent was suffocating inside and strangely noisy,” says Hardy. The new permanent cantina, although not inexpensive, freed up the troupe’s resources and stage crew for more immediate needs and maintains the festive atmosphere of the rental tents and resort-like character of the ranch.

Last year, the project won an Award of Excellence for the International Achievement Awards administered by the Industrial Fabrics Association International. “The beautiful new Cantina and its tensile structure are very well received — everyone at the Opera has loved it,” says Goldsmith. “The Cantina is the great gathering place for the entire company.”

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