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Performance Tents/Circus Big Tops

Bard on the Beach
Client: Bard on the Beach, Vancouver, Canada
Completion Date: June 2011
Project Description: Design, Manufacture & Installation
of a Performance Tent.

Project Specifications


The irregularly shaped, fully engineered fabric structure features six custom steel arches spanning 40m (131’) in width, 35m (111’) in length with a maximum arch height of 12m (38’).  Only two of the arches are the same shape, with the remaining arches each being of different height and width. The main arch is also engineered to accommodate the additional weight of extensive stage lighting.  Four of the six arches are tilted 10 degrees away from center, giving the outside form of the structure, with its slopes and valleys, a design and appearance suggestive of the Vancouver mountains in the background. 

The structure’s covering is custom made from Ferrari 702 Chapiteaux Fabric.  The custom-made red and white themed fabric reflects the character and branding of the festival.  The inside of the fabric is a dark blue to facilitate production lighting requirements.  Each fabric roof panel is kedered on both edges for connection to the frame, and each is a unique, sculptured shape to fit the custom size and positioning of the arches.

As the festival site is on public property, it is only available to the client for 5 months of the year.  The new Main Tent structure, along with the entire festival set-up, has to be completely removed at the end of each season and the site returned to its original state.  Speed, ease and efficiency of set-up, take down and subsequent storage were important considerations in its design.


What was the purpose of the project? What did the client request?


The 25 year old Bard on the Beach Shakespeare Festival in Vancouver, BC requested design and manufacturing services for a new and unique temporary structure to utilize as its main stage venue for their Anniversary 2011 festival season and beyond.  The structure needed to be not only larger than the previous structure to accommodate a significantly larger audience capacity of 750, it also needed to be distinctive and customized to reflect the character and identity of the theatre company.  Many aesthetic and functional design features were requested and incorporated into the design to create the ‘Bard Experience’, meaning the creation of an environment specifically suited to the production of Shakespeare’s works that provided a dynamic workspace for Bard’s directors and actors.

For example, a key requirement of the design was a large, open back wall behind the stage that could also be closed when not in use.  This has long been a signature feature of the Bard Experience with most of the actors entering and exiting from the back of the stage.  In addition to the outstanding performance, the audience is able to look out across the stage and enjoy the scenic views as the sun sets over English Bay in the background.


What is unique or complex about the project (Design, Manufacturing, Installation)?

The design and manufacturing of this unique structure was truly an international effort and required considerable project management to bring the various components together on schedule.  The SEC Group engaged the services of Baytex Manufacturing in New Zealand (our partners in the Baytex USA Tent Liner product line) for design and drafting services, as well as fabrication of the fabric panels.   The Ferrari fabric was manufactured in France and transported to New Zealand for fabrication into roof panels and sidewall.  Fabricators local to the Pacific Northwest were utilized for the manufacturing of the steel trusses and specialty parts needed to make the structure function as intended.  Engineering consultants in both New Zealand and Canada were utilized to determine that the structure could pass the local codes specific to the site.

The primary installation occurred over a period of nearly a week under mostly wet and muddy conditions.   Arches were assembled on the ground and lifted into position for anchoring and connection of the supporting purlins.  The unique shape of the fabric roof panels required non-traditional installation methods using kedered clip-on connectors for fabric attachment and tension straps to create the valleys between the arches.   Several additional days were utilized to make on-site adaptations of the structure and detailing of the door openings and sidewalls. 

It is expected that future installations of this structure will take no more than 5 days from beginning to end.


What were the results of the project?  What was the client’s response?

“We are extremely happy with the final results of the new tent.  We were seeking a temporary structure that was not simply bigger than our previous tent, but one that could allow for an improved theatrical experience inside, while maintaining a sense of 'whimsy' on the outside.  This new structure fits the bill wonderfully; it will become the new summer landmark of the Bard on the Beach site and has already developed the feel of a 'real theatre' on the inside” . Managing Director, Rob Barr