IIDA New England 2015 Fashion Show: Meet ‘Pearl’


Prototyping is an important part of our design process at Payette. Leveraging our dedicated fabrication annex, we use our ability to rapidly iterate large scale mock-ups as both an internal design tool and a means of communicating complex design intent to clients and builders (… or make elephant costumes).

Our entry for the IIDA 2015 Fashion Show was a fun way to challenge the methods we generally use toward more conventional architectural ends: The construction of ‘Pearl’ relied on rigorous 3D modeling, a thorough understanding of CNC machining, a hands-on knowledge of fabrication – and an eye for accessorizing. A lightweight skeleton of welded steel supports a skin of vinyl flooring, cut per our files at the Johnsonsite factory with a CNC ultrasonic knife. Pearl is wearing blankets and flowers of Unika Vaev felt and vinyl, tassels and trim from Ver-Tex window-treatments and accent pieces by Lumicor.

Every detail was modeled in Rhinoceros, including the steel skeleton and fasteners. The surfaces of the skin were unrolled and a circle-packing algorithm was used to populate the perforation pattern. By digitally simulating the assembly logic, the fabrication process was streamlined and error free.

When the parts arrive at our office, the team realizes that a full-size adult elephant is very big …

Meanwhile, work on the steel skeleton is underway at our fabrication space.

Part dimensions and connection angles are extracted from the 3D fabrication model. With all the tricky details already resolved at office, the team at the fabrication space can focus on craftsmanship.

As the vinyl flooring is draped over the spoked ‘rib cage,’ Pearl starts to take shape.

The elephant will be carried on the shoulders of two men (the tallest guys in the office, of course). Canoe yokes on adjustable-height attachments help to distribute the load.

When she’s not walking around, Pearl rests on a wheeled support frame.

The detachable head can turn side-to-side on its custom ‘gate hinge’ attachment.

Payette IIDA New England 2015 Fashion Show — Process Time Lapse from Payette on Vimeo.

The IIDA Fashion Show is now just hours away; it’s time to dress Pearl in her finest runway-worthy accessories.

Transporting our elephant to the Convention Center required serious teamwork.

Pearl was a bit of a diva backstage, but wowed the crowd with her big stage presence.

Our complete entry responded to the IIDA prompt, “SENSEation” and centered on a circus theme (hence Pearl as a centerpiece). A circus master and jester accompanied Pearl onstage, leading the elephant along the runway to the song “The Winner Is” by Mychael Danna and DeVotchKa from the Little Miss Sunshine soundtrack. We called our entry “Loxodonta” as a nod to Pearl’s presence (loxodonta is the greek word for elephant) and our description of our entry played into the excitement and mystery of a circus act.

Deep in the circus tent, the ring master and the jester begin the evening’s rituals, drawing us in to a world both absurd and extraordinary. The circus tent allows the audience to forget their worries and enter a world of SENSEational and breathtaking wonder.

Missed the fashion show? You can see Pearl up-close next week (11/17 – 11/19) at ABX on the expo floor next to the registration area.

Need more Pearl? Check out this video of our process and our team’s runway walk.

Loxodonta from Payette on Vimeo.

Thanks to our partners, Johnsonite, Ver-Tex and Ritz Associates for a fun and SENSEational process!

0 Comment
  1. Very, very strong entry. So dramatic and well thought out. Amazing work.

    Gregg doble
  2. Rick – That sounds awesome. We’d be happy to share our source files. I’ll contact your directly to coordinate.

  3. That look amazing where can I get the DXF or what ever type of file so I can cut, and make my own?
    I’m thinking stainless, and core-ten

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