The Pearl Palace

2012 to 2014 _ Thesis Research

Pearl Palace Sketch
Pearl Palace Concept Sketch

The Pearl Palace is a shade structure from the Mollusk Nation. The pavilion was designed and built for the 2012 Burning Man festival. Resembling an oyster shell, the pavilion embodies the whimsical ethos of festival culture, while fulfilling the practical need for breezy shade under the hot sun. The tent has been constructed six times, and evolved throughout its various iterations. Future projects for the Mollusk Nation include clamshell sleeping pods, a sticky escargot slow bar, and the mother of all pearls.

Pearl Palace 02
Design/Concept Model

The Pearl Palace is constructed from PVC tubes, rope, and a layer of fabric that articulates the ruffled, mottled appearance of an oyster. Tea and turmeric were used to dye the fabric by hand. Future experiments with natural dyes will be used to enrich the pavilion’s character.

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Dying the fabric in tea and turmeric
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Fabric drying on a wooden frame

The structure pictured here employs 8 columns, tensioned vertically with rope guy wires. This finicky system was nixed in future iterations of the pavilion.

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PVC pipe and rope structure

The Pearl Palace looked rather shabby in its first iteration. The properties of the fabric did not correspond to the scale model that was used in its design. While the pavilion met the functional requirements needed for the shade structure, it lacked the sculptural qualities we had anticipated.

Pearl Palace 06
Pearl Palace at Burning Man

In future iterations, the same materials were used to produce a cantilevered structure that better articulated the shape of an oyster. The folds of the fabric were more adequately supported in this form, and the finished pavilion was more open and inviting.

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Redesigning the structure
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Structural redesign
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The Pearl Palace at Figment Interactive Arts Festival on Toronto Island
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View from inside the Pearl
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The Pearl Palace at night

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