As you may know, my assignment was investigating how we can build ourselves a better shade system.
Our criteria from wayback included:
- Larger shade space
- More bar shade
- Lower weight penalty
- Easier to put up
- Not reliant on RVs to function (as was the case with the Janky Weave’s damaged awning)
- More resilient in windstorms
- Possible replacement for the garage tent
I went a step further to add:
To that end, I’ve been conducting research in that arena for some time now and have arrived at what I feel is our best bet for a solution. Tensile Integrity, or “Tensegrity” structures offer a degree of elegance that you don’t often see in canopy designs. Basically, the designs use rigid and flexible properties of different materials to hold shit together. Yay. Modern tent designs are now beginning to incorporate tensegrity principles. You have seen a larger one if you’ve ever driven down RT 50 heading to Ocean City, MD. The tent-looking ampitheater in Cambridge, MD is a prime example.
Now, there are a handful of examples of tensegrity structures on the Playa, most notable among them is from Camp Elsewhere:
Their website lays it down proppa –
“They [tensegrity structures] work well for Burning Man because they are:
1) cheap to build,
2) fairly easy to transport,
3) fast and easy to set up,
4) nice and cool with maximum airflow, and
5) best of all for the playa, they are pretty much indestructible.
Word. Don’t confuse this with stretching a few tarps across some tent poles. The construction is more than that. By using flexible canopy material, you create a structure that is strong yet giving (useful in high wind scenarios), with a high shade-surface-to-weight ratio. Below are some pencil sketches of a preliminary design that allows for basically the same camp layout as in ’06, but adds some refinements I think you’ll find useful. The sketches are roughly hewn and even rougher in scale. I did not have a ruler at work and drank too much at my five martini solo lunch to risk tracking one down from my coworkers…
Tensegrity Structure Side Elevation
This first image give the side view, minus the RVs. This was done as to not distract from the view of the canopy. As you can see, it looks a lot like a circus or wedding tent (and really, what is the difference between a circus and a wedding that needs a fucking tent? Not a goddamn thing.) There are no side panels thought, and the canopy holds its shape through the use of a flexible fabric stretched across the rigid beams. You’ll see that there is ample space under the canopy, and more importantly, the support beams also serve as the verticals for THE BAR! And the bar is BIGGER, with BETTER SHADE, and now a degree of CROWD CONTROL, which we’ll see more of in subsequent drawings.
Tensegrity Structure Overhead Elevation
This shitty sketch shows an approximation of what the camp would look like from overhead. The “V” configuration of the two RV’s is still preserved, as is the bar being at the front of the camp. One of the things we all complained about last time was the inability to close shop when we needed some downtime. By integrating the bar with the supports, we can extend the canopy material over and “Close” the bar unequivocally as need be. Since the structure is independent from the RVs, the placement of said vehicles allows for much greater flexibility. Shown here, I’ve left space in between RV and shade structure for cooking areas and bike parking space. Now we don’t sacrifice precious shade for storage.
Tensegrity Structure Bar Detail
Which brings us to this awful piece of shit that my high school mechanical drawing teacher, Mr. Sheridan would most certainly have wiped his ass with. Whatever. I’m surprised that I can draw anything at all, let alone semi-detailed projections. At any rate, here is the skinny on the bar. We have options. I figured we’d just festoon it to the shade beams and call it a day, with some “modesty panels” affixed to shore up the surface and make it look less like a bench and more like a bar. Depending on how much load bearing we need, we can add some upright wire supports. This should effectively DOUBLE our bar surface area, as well as allowing for space behind the rail for us to work. And taking cues from early Christians, pioneers in primitive crowd control (they invented the aisle to accommodate pilgrims who came to view St. Peter’s tomb), I’ve separated the bar into “wet” and “dry” sides (just like a darkroom). So the guests come down one side, get their base and their booze, and then head over to the other side where the drinks are finished, garnished, and mixed. This way, we compartmentalize to some extent and cut back on bottlenecking. Or we can split the line and run two at once. Whatever will reduce our foot traffic spilling out into the outer ring, which if you recall was an official complaint from the last time.
PRACTICAL ISSUES –
There are a few hurdles to overcome, but none that are insurmountable to clever children such as ourselves. They include, off the top of my head:
- SCALE – We can build this sucker as large as we need it. Beam length isn’t such a problem as sewing the canopy. I have a feeling that we’ll have to take a sailmaker’s approach and sew bolts of fabric lengthwise and then cut/reinforce the shape we need. I have never done this, but I do have some fair sewing experience. I look to others (Mindy) to render assistance on this front. Taller is better, as more headspace means a cooler underside.
- MATERIALS – The beams can be made from actual rounded beams (as in the Elsewhere design), or we could sandwich some 2X4s together to make lighter, longer ones. Or we could use metal pipe. The best design will give us length without weight. Canopy material research is ongoing. Lycra, Dacron and other ideal materials are fucking expensive. Canvas is less expensive but heavier and not as flexible. I will find a cost effective solution, I swear!
- SHAPE – The shape is what I thought would be best, but that can always change to suit other needs. I’m not married to the layout by any means, except for where the bar is concerned. We need to think real hard about what we do and don’t want to bring this year. Personally, I would like to leave the garage tent home this time. It was a pain to set up and only offered a small amount of useable space. Which means making a bigger shade structure is in the cards. This is possible, but we all need to voice our concerns now.
- WIREPLAN & OTHER SPECS – Tensegrity structures rely on guy wires to keep them up. Whatever we design needs to be within the Playa regs for something like that. There may be a size that triggers the DPW to take a look at what we’re doing. No problemo; we just need to be sure that everything is to code. Safety Third and all…
That’s basically it. More to come as we refine. Input from everyone is a must, and the sooner the better.