And now Umbrellas,
Sails, and Signage
In Australia and New Zealand
exposure to sun is a problem. I lived in Australia for a
number of years and shade was a premium. A number of sail systems have
been developed to provide out door shade. These are permanent
installations, part of the architecture and design of building. They
constructed to withstand the worst weather conditions. So they are
considered part of the building with all the drama of building permits and
In 1993 I build a pergola off the side
of my house over a deck area. It was going to take some time for the
deciduous vines to grow and give shade in the summer. I priced canvas
awnings and shade systems. Apart from the expense, you needed a building
permit to install them. All I wanted was a lightweight cloth, a bit like
a sail on a yacht, to put up in the heat of the day and take down
quickly if the wind came up. Some cup hooks on the wooden frame, some
blue sheeting material, a bit of sewing, a set of eyelets and eyelet tools
from Miter 10 and three hours work delivered
a set of cotton sails for under $40.00. These sails have been in use now
for ten years.
Even in the wind they billow out and vent the air without shaking the
pergola. The automatic venting is the secret to antipodes weather conditions.
Umbrellas have become popular for outdoor entertainment areas, cafes and
restaurants. The problem is that when the wind blows, they can blow out of their holders.
In 2003 I opened a small Café, wine bar, (www.canterburyfare.co.nz)
with an outdoor area
for tables and chairs. There are a number of cafés on the street and I
watched their umbrellas take off on a number of occasions. While sitting
in the bath one morning I wondered if a conventional umbrella could be
modified on the same principle as the simple shade system I had
developed for the pergola. Voila, the UpDown umbrella was born. It
works well and looks great.
Recently I have been thinking about how this umbrella system mimics a tree
and it is really a biomimic of a tree so I have decide to call them tree
umbrellas when they are fully matured. The umbrella, illustrated
below, is modification of a standard umbrella, and this is a modification
of the prototype based on flexible glass reinforced, and flexible,
rods. This prototype has tested the general concept of sales
attached at four points and that are able to move in the wind at the same
time as giving shade and stress breaking in the wind. The mature
umbrella (A Tree Umbrella) is constructed of flexible elements - a trunk
and branches supporting interchangeable panels (leaves) that are like
sales that can be changed depending on the season. Whereas a tree
dose this by dropping leaves, or changing the leaf colour this system
requires some action to achieve the trees sophistication.
UpDown Umbrella now called "Tree Umbrellas"
|"So that's how it works"
||Just like a flower
||Ready to Rock and Roll
At the moment I am
using a pot as a base for the umbrella. This is not the preferred
support but I am not happy with the usual metal plate or a hole in a
table. While it looks great when there is no wind, in a breeze,
everything is at the mercy of the next strong gust. The designs are
currently being evaluated by a structural engineering specialist firm to
advise me on the design requirements and systems of anchorage.
The advantage of this system is that the panels are only attached in four
places with hooks. They can be quickly unclipped, a bit like a
sail on a yacht, and can be easily changed. So the umbrella, like a yacht, has a suit
of sails: waterproof, shade, and advertising.
The one disadvantage is the frame for the panels is too rigid. In the
wind the panels vent but there is still a lot of wind pressure and the
umbrella can still take off: it has on one occasion. I have revisited the umbrella
and substituted the rigid frame with flexible fiberglass rods. The
prototype works (see above).
The plan now is to take this innovation back to
the UpDown house and to develop a range of options to provide shelter
and shade. There is also an opportunity to use small sail boat
technology to develop the idea around sails in general using fee
standing masts and all the specialised fittings used in yachting and
Using canvas sails is a return to the historical origin of the veranda on early
colonial house. The veranda was derived from a canvas awning that
was attached to bungalow retreats used by the British in India during
the summer. They were usually striped. Many of the early New
Zealand houses had verandas of corrugated iron, painted in alternating
colours, and the iron had a reverse curve to echo the canvas sheeting it
was reflecting in the design. This was permanent cover, later, the
bull-nose shape became popular and the default design.
Signage (Or, alternatively, Leaf Signage)
Another challenge is sandwich
boards blowing over. A gust of wind and bang - things flying
everywhere. The idea of making something that works like a tree,
something that gives into the wind got me wondering about adapting the
sail idea to signage. Several prototypes have been built and tired
and they work.
concept is simple. Two or more rods inserted into the
base. They can be attached at the top and the signage panel
is then attached to the rods. The added advantage is in a
light breeze the signs attract attention.
||In this example, black
cartridge paper has been attached to the rods at four
points. This has been derived from the umbrella system. There area various treatments of
attachments and a universal system is currently in the design
phase that will work for the signage system, the tree umbrellas,
and the sails for house.
||Other treatments are
under development. In this example a stone has been
placed at the top of the rods. This adds weight and adds to
It is this form that is the inspiration for Leaf Signage.
So watch this space for
For more information,
contact Kevin Scally of Updown Housing
PO Box 13938 Christchurch New Zealand
is UpDown Housing? >>
Last updated November 23, 2008
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