Since the opening of their new Lee Norvelle Drama Center in 2002, Indiana University’s original 1930s-era theater sat unused. Currently undergoing a full renovation, the space has been repurposed as a combination venue hosting a cinema in the original house space, a movement studio in the former grid area, and a black box performance space in what was the flyloft.

Working with general contractor Messer Construction and project architect MGA Partners LLC., Chicago Flyhouse designed a tension grid for the black box space, increasing both functionality and the safety of the student crews and performers.

Because of the complex nature of the project, and the fact that the building was under construction and simultaneously housing several other crews and vendors, final details of Flyhouse’s tension grid and the exact layout had to be confirmed and accurate months in advance of installation. The approved design was sent to InterAmerica Stage for fabrication of the grid panels, with the Flyhouse team slated to begin installation in late June 2010.

Staging the installation to accommodate and take advantage of developments in the ongoing build, Flyhouse first welded structural steel pad-eyes on-site at an early stage of the project. Months later, installation took place, carefully timed to coincide with the temporary existence of a 7’11” x 5-1/2′ access point through the second floor. Even with the access point, the tension grid panels required careful maneuvering, as some were as large as 8’x11′.

As the grid project was carefully scheduled around the other construction crews, delays in other areas of the build forced Flyhouse to adjust their timeline repeatedly. Nonetheless, Flyhouse completed the tension grid installation on schedule.

IU’s new tension grid is comprised of 1/8″ galvanized aircraft cable with a steel frame support system that provides a uniformly distributed live load of twenty pounds per square foot with a maximum deflection of three inches. As the “transparent” grid allows light to pass through, student crews can adjust lighting positions in complete safety, even during performances.