We've been doing some weight testing for the official Savannah series engineering. Step 1: Set up the frame!

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TGIF Photo Post

Happy New Year, readers!  We rung in the new year with new cloth – Sperry tents are back in production, along with some large custom jobs that will be going up this spring.

The new cloth has finally arrived! We are happy to see it and get back into tent production.

The light at the cutting machine still works perfectly to prevent cloth flaws from appearing in tents.

Securing the peaks of a large tent can be a fairly time consuming endeavor. (Eric and Rene say they didn't plan their matching shirts. . . I'm not sure if I believe them.)

The custom jobs are still progressing nicely down in the wood and metal shop (which often extends out the garage doors to make more space).

Have a wonderful weekend! Now is a great time of year to daydream about sunshine.  If your imagination is excellent and you can picture a day too hot, on a patio that hurts your feet, give us a call about a new awning!


Savannah at the St. Regis Hotel in Washington, D.C.

In September and October we built a  40′ x 60′ Savannah Series tent for Sperry Tents D.C. – the newest Sperry Tents territory.  Everything went very well on our second Savannah tent.  After it was built, the whole tent was snugly settled into a padded shipping container and driven to the capitol.  Matt and Tim Sperry went down in November to set up the tent for an event at the St. Regis Hotel – the site of the Engaged! Magazine Bridal Show this past spring.

At both events, the Savannah Series tent was located on the beautiful Astor Terrace. Photo credit: Steve Canning Photography

The unexpected plot twist of the whole production came after the event at the St. Regis.  It went so well, that the Hotel bought the tent from the Sperry Tents D.C.!  This change of plan, despite being unexpected,  has worked out quite well for everyone involved.  The St. Regis has their own Savannah Series tent to shelter the Astor Terrace – their outdoor event space.  We made a few custom modifications, along with some brand new custom sidewalls and marquees that will form hallways between the building and the tent itself.  By the time the event season picks up, we will have delivered a replacement tent to Sperry Tents D.C. for rental from their location.  And from our perspective – we are just delighted!  It is wonderful to know that the careful time, planning, and manufacturing that goes into such a monumental tent is truly appreciated.  Matt returned to the St. Regis in mid-December to set up the tent at the St. Regis, and ensure that all of the new accessories are a good fit.

The arched windows and solid door allow the event space to be completely enclosed.

With each Savannah tent we build, we are further able to perfect the production and design.  The custom sides for the St. Regis Hotel are the same basic measurements as the originals, but each one features a paneled arched window to match the windows of the building itself.  Select sides have Velcro lined cut-outs for the ventilation of Heating and Cooling units to maintain the temperature and humidity of the event space, while the space between the canopy and the top cupola is completely enclosed with clear vinyl.

The fully finished pine frame and stainless steel hardware make up the frame for the sturdy, year-round structure.

With the next Savannah series tent underway, we are very pleased with the way this line of tents is being received.  The next tent will be the largest yet – a 50′ x 110′ spread for Castle Hill Inn in Newport, RI.  Stay tuned for future photos of that tent.

Happy Christmas Eve Eve, and Happy Fourth Day of Hanukkah!

We will be closed Monday and Friday of next week as our holidays off.  We hope your holidays are Merry, and we’ll be here Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday to answer all of your fabric architecture queries.


Thank goodness it’s Friday!

The days seem longer somehow, when the daylight is shorter!  Or it could just be the lessening of the frantic summer pace.  We are still moving right along with stock tents (call to see what we have available!), and working on custom awnings that will be installed in the spring.

These custom cushions were built for a window seat in the master bedroom of a private residence in Duxbury, MA.

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Project Spotlight September 2011 Tension Awning

Tension awnings come in many shapes, sizes, and materials – especially if we are building them!  Our custom residential awnings are tailored to suit the house and the customer exactly.   This custom fit can be accomplished a few different ways, especially with an attentive, open dialogue between customer and designer.

One important question that customers are sometimes too reserved to ask is: How can I order an awning without spending more than is available in my budget?  Shade is important, whether you want your awning to be a big investment or not.  There are some surprisingly simple ways to prevent the cost of a simple awning from shooting through the roof, and we are happy to help our customers find what will work for them.


A base of high quality cloth is very important, and should never be sacrificed.  Happily, Sunbrella® Awning and Marine Fabric is the one we recommend most often and the cost per yard is far from exorbitant.  With its high levels of UV and Water Resistance, Sunbrella® fabric has a fantastic  cost-to-value relationship for a seasonal awning.  The range of colors is impressive, with new releases every year (my personal favorite this season: pumpkin).  We use the warm, inviting line of neutrals most often used for subtlety, but the colors range from pastels to brilliant jewel tones.



For this particular awning, we made one small change that affects the overall appearance only slightly, but saved some money for the customer.  Rather than tensioning with struts and stainless steel wire, the posts of this awning are supported by stakes and lines, with ratchet straps to make small alterations.  Another set of variables that can affect cost in a big way are the wood and finish of the posts or spars.  While some alterations will make small differences to the longevity of the awning accessories, it is possible to upgrade them in the future without any considerable hassle.

Despite concessions made for price, this awning is beautiful, functional, and perfect for the patio space it covers.  The Sunbrella®  Awning and Marine Canvas is one of the best available for awnings and outdoor structures,  and the company offers an impressive 10-year limited warranty.  The bottom line is: if you are thinking about an awning, please give us a call!  We will do everything we can to make your awning work for you.


Rapid Deployment Modules

Our latest large-scale production of an outside design is the Rapid Deployment Module, a collaboration with The Barendsen Rossi Collaborative.  Rapid Deployment Modules are the third emergency housing system that we have produced over the last two years.  The first was Domes for Haiti soon after the earthquake in 2010, and earlier this year we built a big batch of SoftHouses.

The Rapid Deployment Modules differ in that we are not building a fully-surrounding skin for a frame.  The frame and walls are solid and pre-fabricated.  We build the cloth roofs with screened windows, and large shade flies that hang at an angle above the roof.

RDM by BRC from Jono Reduker on Vimeo.

Our portions of the RDM construction - set up on the ground for lack of a frame.

The roofs were built with cloth called Odyssey from Bainbridge International.  This cloth is waterproof, lightweight, breathable, and mildew resistant.  The fly is built from a relatively heavy weight ripstop nylon, identical to the cloth used for sailing spinnakers.  The corners have reinforcing patches, and the handy, color-coded straps make set-up very simple.

The first batch of RDMs has been complete for a little while now. We’re looking forward to seeing some pictures of them in use, and we will share them with you here when they arrive!

TGiF Photo Post

Poseidon referees our company retreat: Bowling and Black Light Mini Golf.

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Castle Hill

Photo: Onne van der Wal

Although we are entering our the quiet season here at Sperry Fabric Architecture, we will not be lacking in exciting projects this winter. We have been contracted to build a structure for the Castle Hill Inn, a world-class resort in Newport Rhode Island. We will be building a custom Savannah Series tent to date, for the Castle Hill wedding venue. It will provide elegant shelter for weddings and events. The beautiful Victorian architecture of the estate will be complemented nicely by our gracefully curved laminate beams and delicately colored sailcloth canopies.

The Castle Hill mansion was built in 1874, intended as a summer house for explorer and scientist Alexander Agassiz.  He treasured the location for the opportunities it offered in Marine observation.  The architecture is inspired by Swiss chalets, and the many rooms were often occupied by advanced students of biology under Agassiz’s tutelage.  The resort is now owned by Relais & Châteaux, a global association of hoteliers devoted to fine cuisine and elegant retreats.  Castle Hill has been named as one of  Travel + Leisure’s Top 500 Hotels in the World many times, and is a popular New England wedding venue.

A smaller Savannah tent on the shore of Marion Harbor.

The Savannah tent for Castle Hill will be our largest wooden frame tent yet, with finished measurements of 50′ x 110′.  It will shelter the preexisting Chalet Terrace, a classic location for many outdoor rehearsal dinners, wedding receptions, and special events.  A short distance away from the wedding arch, the terrace is conveniently located with a beautiful view of the ocean. Our clear glass side walls will be perfect to block out chilly breezes without hindering the sightseeing of party-goers.

A map of the grounds at Castle Hill.

We will be documenting the construction of such a monumental project. The pictures will be right here on the blog, and we can’t wait to tell you all about it.

Project Spotlight: The New Williams College Commencement Canopy

A flurry of graduation caps at the Williams College commencement ceremony.

The custom tension canopy used for commencement at Williams College, until its retirement this past year, was our oldest protective Sperry structure still in use.  You can read about the original in this earlier blog entry.   After just over twenty years, the college decided this spring that it was time for a new canopy.

Although the fabric needed to be renewed, the cables and design were still perfect for the commencement ceremony.  With that in mind, we brought in the original canopy and all its hardware.  After designing the new canopy, we laid out the old one on the floor and took many photos of all its hardware and attachments, ensuring that everything would go together in the same way.

Rather than the original green and white, the decision-makers at the college selected a jubilant combination of purple and yellow for the new edition.  The cloth is light and sturdy, our Sperry Tent Cloth in custom colors.

The Williams awning includes over two hundred hand stitched blocks of various sizes.
The Williams awning includes over 200 hundred hand-secured blocks of various sizes.

As in the first canopy, the edges and corners are reinforced well to preserve the structure and prevent stretching. Around the edges are small blocks, which lead lines back and forth across the gap between the canopy itself and heavy stainless steel cables. The intricacies of the lacing are very precise, and controls the tension of the canopy and its placement in the air.

Each block was hand-stitched onto the cables with waxed thread.

The lacing between awning and cable is very important - a snag could become a disaster during set-up.

 The canopy was finished and delivered just in time for commencement, which luckily was held outside with no interference from inclement weather!  For more photos of the event, take a look at the Williams College facebook photo album.

All event photos provided by Williams College.