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Twin canopies set the stage

Exteriors, Features | January 1, 2013 | By:

A pair of new fabric canopies helps a school fulfill its mission.

Denton Community College, near Manchester, England, is a comprehensive school for boys and girls between the ages of 11 and 16. It specializes in performing arts and sports. A recent £24 million addition to the school expanded its classrooms and support facilities and included a number of spaces that give students more venues for performances of all kinds.

This outdoor amphitheater, located in a central courtyard called a teaching oasis, serves as the perfect backdrop for a stage that can adapt to any school performance. The amphitheater seating is covered by two identical tensioned fabric structures of a unique blend of hypar and conic forms that add flare to the setting.

Placed against the bright green façade of the new addition, the 5.5m by 5m mirror-image canopies—designed and fabricated by Fabric Architecture Ltd.—add intimacy and protection for audiences. As access to the courtyard was restricted during construction, all the steel work and canopy rigging had to be brought in on hand carts instead of the usual powered telescopic handlers, an exercise in coordinating all the construction trades.

The fluid space created by the uplifting forms of the canopies has brought attention to the college program from the surrounding community, such that the space is frequently rented out for local events. Cath Walker, deputy head teacher of the college says, “We have had many visitors to the College and all comment on its calm and purposeful atmosphere.”

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