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Underwater shade at Penn State

Case Studies | June 1, 2019 | By:

Tensile membrane offers two times more natural light transmission than standard weldable PVDF membranes as well as twice the heat protection, making it ideal for creating an outdoor performance and relaxation space. Photos: ©Lightweight Manufacturing.

When you think about outdoor spaces for people to congregate, a water tower is probably not on the list. But on the campus of Penn State University, State College, Pa., a new water tower located next to the Palmer Museum of Art and the Stuckeman School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture was the perfect spot to create a gathering place. 

Under the 140-foot tower, a seating and stage space was created, covered by a tensile structure initially designed by Derek Kalp, PLA, ASLA, and landscape architect at the Penn State Physical Plant, and students at the Stuckeman School. The canopy serves two purposes: protection from the elements and providing a defined space that minimizes the effect of the large tower. 

Pennsylvania-based companies Signature Structures and Lightweight Manufacturing Inc. worked together to manufacture the tensile canopy, made of a FlexlightXtrem TX30-III membrane from Serge Ferrari, a world leader in flexible composite material technology.

The fabric features a patented crosslink technology that makes it extremely durable in harsh conditions, achieved by applying a coating under biaxial tension (along both the warp and the weft) throughout the manufacturing cycle. The flexible frame, made from high-tenacity PET microcables, is coated with several layers of polymers, followed by a dirt-resistant surface treatment. The process creates unique properties in terms of resistance, dimensional stability and weight, eliminating deformation due to load.

The canopy is finished with changing LED lights, creating a welcoming space to enjoy the outdoors day or night, no matter the weather. For more information, visit 

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