Danny Colvin soars with his innovative design for a Massachusetts trapeze school
Jill Connors -- Interior Design, 12/1/2004 12:00:00 AM
Dressed in black spandex, Danny Colvin flies through the air and lands with a grin. "Pretty funny for an architect's first completed project, don't you think?" he asks as he heads for the platform at TSNY Beantown, the new branch of Trapeze School New York in Reading, Massachusetts. Located in the entertainment court at Jordan's Furniture, the rig is open to paying participants ages 6 and up.
The TSNY commission was seemingly impossible: Design a double trapeze rig to fit into a space 30 feet wide by 80 feet long—in time for the store's opening 10 weeks later. However, company president Jonathon Conant made an inspired choice when he turned to Colvin Design, founded just six months previously. Not only does Colvin himself have 15 years of architectural experience, eight at Skidmore, Owings & Merrill in New York, but he's also a trapeze enthusiast accomplished enough to have taught at the school's flagship.
"The problem at TSNY Beantown was the limited space," says Colvin. "Most single rigs are 12 feet wide, with an additional 10 to 15 feet on both sides for the safety-net spreaders, so a conventional double rig wouldn't have fit." The solution: four 4-inch-diameter aluminum V-braces bolted to the floor and attached to the safety net with shock cord. FTL Design Engineering Studio, known for its work with lightweight construction, did the technical drawings based on Colvin's concept. "The safety-net structure is unusual in that a substantial load occurs quickly, and then there's no load at all," FTL senior principal Nicholas Goldsmith says of the design—so innovative yet simple that the circus industry has already expressed interest.
Just two days before the Jordan's opening, Colvin tested his concept in a rather unforgiving way. After grabbing the fly bar, swinging through the air, and letting go, he hurtled toward the net—and landed with a bounce. "I had no doubt that it would work," says the architect, whose philosophy about flying could also apply to design: It teaches you to control fear and trust other people, challenging you like nothing else.