Two custom-designed interior curtains of metal mesh fabric woven by Cambridge Architectural border the Central Gallery at the Moody Center for the Arts at Rice University. The new home for creativity on Rice’s Houston campus opened in February 2017 and is dedicated to interdisciplinary collaboration through the arts.
Working with Michael Maltzan Architecture in Los Angeles, Cambridge wove two curtains of flexible metal fabric to provide an open yet protective partition for the Central Gallery. The space hosts experimental artwork exhibitions and has a sprung wood floor for dance and social events.
The mesh in Cambridge’s Mid Balance metal fabric pattern has 50 percent open area to meet the design intent of the architect and affirm the Moody Center’s mission to foster connections between artistic disciplines.
According to Michael Maltzan, design principal, the Moody Center’s interior space creates a sense of openness and possibility. Sightlines transact through spaces creating layered views of the myriad activities playing across the Central Gallery, other exhibition areas and the building’s production and instructional spaces.
“So much of what I was trying to do in this building was to not design a specific stand-alone space,” Maltzan said, “but to make spaces that would feel very connected to each other where you would get a view of something you wouldn’t normally get a view of.”
Because the two curtains, measuring 45.8 x 11.5 feet and 25.4 x 11.5 respectively, must also serve as a protective barrier for rotating art exhibitions, engineers at Cambridge Architectural designed a system that attaches the flexible metal fabric to hooks at the top and bottom so they can roll smoothly along a track.
The mesh is hung sideways so it can pivot at the rods, which allows the curtains to collapse and fold at the push of a button. When fully extended, they can be locked to enclose the artwork on display.
"The project team recognized the additional security and durability that Cambridge's Mid Balance weave provides over other metal curtain options, which is something we stress for this type of application,” said David Zeitlin, Cambridge Architectural Sales Director.
The Moody Center fabric is the latest interior curtain created by Cambridge for an academic institution. Other curtain projects have been completed for Old Dominion University, Pingree School, Regis College and the University of Baltimore,
"Our architectural curtains create a high degree of visibility within interior landscapes and are an attractive design alternative to enclosing spaces with walls and solid partitions,” Zeitlin said. “We are thrilled to have our craftsmanship on display at a prestigious university like Rice and in this state-of-the art facility that promotes collaboration between the arts, sciences and humanities.”
The $30 million, 50,000 square-foot Moody Center fills the following roles on the Rice campus: an experimental platform for creating and presenting works in all disciplines; a flexible teaching space to encourage new models of learning; and a forum for creative partnerships with visiting national and international artists.
“Moody is where art exhibition and education intersects and fosters collaborations across multiple disciplines and across Houston, the state and the nation,” said Ross Moody, Moody Foundation Chairman, at the building’s dedication.