Birmingham, Ala. (Sept. 6, 2013) – When the owners of the Galleria explained that they wanted something “to add color and interest” throughout the interior of the cavernous skylighted structure— something of significant size that would not interfere with access to the sprinkler, HVAC, electrical, security, or lighting systems—the design challenge was set. The CMH team began brainstorming and troubleshooting, from aluminum-framed fabric panels of varying size, to the application of colored films onto the existing skylight glass. However, these initial solutions not only created additional issues with fire protection, dust collection, and skylight access, but they simply lacked the ‘wow’ factor that CMH was looking for.
Brainstorming sessions about tensile fabric structures gained momentum, and the team found themselves in the studio, stretching various fabrics across the space and lighting them with color-changing LED fixtures. The next phase consisted of full-size mock-ups suspended between lifts above the Galleria’s food court. The team decided upon the 100% recyclable textile sails, custom-made from the English company Fabric Architecture that claims the Galleria fabrics are “the largest interior sails in the world.”
CMH team members have spent long hours after the Galleria closes each night, perfecting everything from the panel size and lighting methods to the hanging and attachment methods. The installation that fills the Galleria’s vast ceiling is now complete. The largest panel is suspended above the center court and is almost 40 feet tall and over 60 feet long, providing shade for the food court patrons below. “We knew that on sunny days, the white panels would be visually striking, filling the space with a soft natural light,” said Firm Executive Vice President Mike Tillman, “but it was the possibilities provided by the programmable LED fixtures that made the structures such an exciting improvement.”