Monday, August 5, 2019

Steam bent theater seating



Photographer: Greg Mooney

Rhino contributed to the renovation of Atlanta's Alliance Theatre, a project combining steam bending with laser technology.

To achieve the sinuous design and installation, Trahan Architects borrowed the form-making ideas of celebrated furniture and design artist Matthias Pliessnig.

How do you scale an artist’s handcrafted quality to outfit a 650-seat theater? Pliessnig and Trahan’s team used steam to soften hundreds of reclaimed white oak slats, and then bend them into place around the theater to create a serpentine surface along the theater's balcony railing and side terraces. The custom-shaped and -positioned slats provide outstanding acoustics inside the theater. And steam bending the wood was more efficient than milling it on a lathe.

Working with the Plaistow, N.H.–based wood fabricator CW Keller Associates, in Rhino, the team devised a model that called for approximately 100,000 linear feet of wood slats placed around the theater. In locations where the acoustics needed a reflective surface, the slats were spaced close together. Where absorption was needed, the slats were set further apart.

The curvy, undulating aesthetic required laser scanning and projection. The laser projection allowed the assembly team to take the fabricated oak panels and place them without relying on measuring tape and plumb lines. The projector projects placement points on the theatre wall. 

Watch the process in the Faro video Alliance Theater, Atlanta, Georgia.

More photos and details are also in Architect Magazine's article.

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