March 1st, 2017 / By: Jake Kulju / Article published and authorised for copy here by Fabric Architecture Mag

In the desert of Arizona, shade is always in high demand. Following the popularity of its signature SUNAMI® shade structure, Tensile Shade Products LLC of Tucson, Ariz., wanted to expand its prefabricated shade structure product line to include another product that would provide more shade with a similar style, and would be a dynamic enhancement to commercial, public and private environments. The company’s solution was OSPREY®, a larger variation of its existing cantilevered shade structure.

OSPREY was designed to meet standards for Accessible Design defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, which makes the product code-compliant at locations across the country.

“OSPREY is specified in diverse locations, so it was important that it be designed with Accessible Design to make it easy to be installed to code,” says Noah Smith of G.H. Bruce LLC, Tucson, Ariz., OSPREY’s designer and project manager. “The structure creates a profile with proper head clearance and an integral obstruction at ground level for the sight-impaired to find with a cane.”

OSPREY is a free-standing, pre-engineered shade sculpture measuring approximately 26-feet, 6-inches wide; 13-feet, 7-inches high; and 15-feet, 10-inches deep. The frame is fabricated from high-strength steel tubing assembled from eight separate components. The canopy is made of three pieces of PolyTex high-density polyethylene fabric manufactured by PolyFab USA, Manhattan Beach, Calif., and uses a Sunbrella perimeter edge webbing, manufactured by Glen Raven Custom Fabrics LLC of Glen Raven, N.C. The canopy is sewn with Gore® Tenara® thread, manufactured by W.L. Gore and Associates of Newark, Del.

“We use fabric in our structures because of its unique ability to take on fluid, graceful forms with minimal mass and footprint,” Smith says.

OSPREY was designed with a cantilevered stance achieved by dual main supports, which are manufactured using four different radii to create a graceful form. The canopy attaches at four fixed points and four adjustable points for quick, permanent installation. Alternatively, this design helps facilitate the mounting and demounting of the canopy for seasonal installations. In locations where the canopy is removed due to snowfall, the frame remains as a sculptural element.

Smith and his client focused on the design of the structure to help make installation, maintenance and customization easily achievable.

“Like all pre-engineered shade structures offered by Tensile Shade Products LLC, the studio of G.H. Bruce LLC is responsible for the design,” Smith says. “We work closely with our engineers and fabricators to develop sculptures that meet the highest standards of craft and function, with ease of shipping and installation of critical importance as well. OSPREY represents the latest culmination of our tensile sculpture aesthetic, and our ideal of what a shade sculpture product can be.”

The canopy’s elegance and strength are achieved with minimal installation.

The Drawscrew™ tensioning system allows installers to tension the canopy quickly and easily, using just a ladder and a socket tool. Tensioning at each of the four frame locations takes less than five minutes. Installation of the frame requires more sophisticated equipment, however. “A crane, ladders, and at least two people are required for installation,” Smith says. “The frame screws together for quick assembly. The canopy installs in about 45 minutes.”

Smith and his crew brought the same care to the installation as they did to the design process of this project. “This initial installation was at a site surrounded by undisturbed desert,” he says. “It was paramount that there be no damage to the environment. A foundation was required below grade, so we treated the site like an archaeological dig and replaced each rock to its original location.“

Although the structure is a prefabricated product, options for customization were built into the design, giving customers the ability to personalize a structure to fit their needs. “The canopy is available in 18 colors, and the frame can be any color desired,” Smith says. For the initial installation, we chose colors well suited to the desert environment.

This project won an Outstanding Achievement Award in the 2015 IAA competition.