With annual crowds of up to 380,000, plus 700 million television viewers worldwide, Australia's Melbourne Cup Carnival is a see-and-be-seen bonanza for corporate sponsors. The four-day equestrian event is a major opportunity for companies to court attendees at private parties in branded tents. But with a slew of these marquees dotting the grounds at Flemington Racecourse, how does a company stand out from the rest? Moët & Chandon did it through design. Gloss Creative director Amanda Henderson was in her fourth year of working on Moët's tent when she suddenly stumbled upon a rendering of PTW Architecture's national aquatic center at the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics—a building inspired by bubbles.
Hired by the champagne company, PTW erected a standard tent frame of steel posts secured to a pine platform. The architects then draped the frame in two layers of PVC sheeting. A transparent outer layer provided protection from the elements, while the inner white layer featured a blade-cut pattern of circles meant to resemble champagne bubbles. The interior's centerpiece was a white spandex membrane intended to represent the negative space between the junction of three bubbles. To develop the three-dimensional shape of the soft sculpture, PTW used Autodesk 3ds Max, which provided specs for a two-dimensional pattern to be machine-cut and stitched by hand. "It's like pattern-making in fashion but taken to a totally new level by modern technology," says PTW senior architect Chris Bosse. Inserted in the spandex form, two circular nylon tubes gave the installation its basic shape—one tube was bolted to the floor, the other suspended from the tent frame via stainless-steel wire. The architects then stapled the fabric down at each of the tent's four corners. As daylight filtered through the perforations in the roof and walls, the result was an otherworldly shape awash in bubbles.