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Apartment honors history with fabric images

Case Studies | March 1, 2019 | By:

The Montaje Apartments luminaire featuring historic photos received a CODAawards Merit Award in the competition’s residential category in 2018. Photo: Transformit.

Designer Cory Gans of Boston’s Planeta Design Group had a unique idea to honor the history of the site where the new Montaje Apartments in Sommerville, Mass., now stand. Gans wanted to incorporate photographs from the old Ford Motor Company assembly plant that once inhabited what is now Assembly Row, a residential and commercial redevelopment that includes Montaje.

He collaborated with the fabric architecture company Transformit to fabricate a semi-transparent luminaire for the building’s lobby that included old assembly plant photos.

The fixture, designed for a 20-foot by 25-foot coffer, consists of aluminum extrusion frames, stretch mesh and stretch fabric. It is comprised of three hexagons of varying size, orientation and elevation. The white stretch mesh is secured around the soffit perimeter and the lower exterior of the hexagons, leaving the hexagon interiors open to the lobby.

Historic photos including the Ford automobile assembly line, buildings and people, graphically designed by Seattle-based firm Foreseer, are printed on semi-transparent stretch fabric panels that make up the sidewalls of each hexagon. The mesh and panels were affixed to the frames using Transformit’s patented “FasTen” system.

To see how the graphics would look as seen from both sides of the stretch fabric, the team tested different saturation levels. They also tested how images would look with the light wash backlit or on the front face, and when viewed directly or through the white mesh. They determined that the best way to achieve the historical look Gans wanted was with the images printed and illuminated on the exterior face, so that
the image seen inside the hexagon is viewed indirectly. For more information, visit

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