Maine Innovators of Tension Fabric Structures

fabric innovationWhat do machine guns, toothpicks, and earmuffs all have in common? Seemingly nothing at first, however if you did a little digging you would find that all of these products were developed right here in Maine. And although this state has seen countless other paramount inventions, none comes close to the ingenious works of Charles William Moss and his Pop Tent which inspired and changed the world of fabric structures as we know them today.

Bill Moss was born in 1923 in Detroit, Michigan. Because of his creative nature, he chose to study art at the University of Michigan, the Layton School of Art, and the Cranbrook Academy of Art before getting a job as an artist  and illustrator for the Ford Times in 1949. A few years later in 1955, while still working for Ford, Bill Moss finished the design for his first Pop Tent model, forever altering peoples perception of camping and jumping into a future of fabric structures as a widely accepted industry. Throughout the following twenty years Moss would continue to improve his tent models, and even open his own design firm in Michigan, before moving to Maine with his wife at the time, Marylin, to found Moss Tent Works in 1975 as a retail manufacturing company. Although Moss retired from the company in 1983, leaving it in the hands of, by then ex-wife, Marylin, during his time in Maine he met and touched the lives of many, spreading his wisdom and guiding those who also wanted to dabble in the magnificence of fabric structures. Whether as a personal mentor or in spirit, his reputation brought visionaries from across Maine to the doorsteps of Moss Tent Works. One of these architectural pilgrims was Charles Duvall, who was hired at Moss Tent Works in 1984 and has been working with tensioned fabric ever since.

Charles DuvallBeginning as a camping tent designer at Moss Tent Works, Duvall was strongly influenced by plants and naturally resilient vegetation. His inspiration came from the idea that flowers, vines, weeds, and branches were all seemingly lightweight and delicate, yet strong and durable. This contradiction led Duvall to create some of the most exotic tent designs of his time, making them a world recognized commodity for their integrity, dependability, and charm. Duvall left Moss Tent Works in 1994 in order to start his own company, and in 1995 Duvall Designs was founded in Rockland, Maine. Moving in a more creative direction, Duvall Designs steps away from camping tents and focuses mainly on creative fabrications for architectural installations and exhibit spaces. His works can be seen in locations across the United States.

Cindy ThompsonAnother one of Moss’ most prominent disciples was Cindy Thompson, founder and president of Transformit, a company based out of Gorham, Maine that produces tensioned fabric sculptures. Thompson met Moss by the way of fate when he stumbled across her art at a gallery in Maine. Sharing an adoration for fabric elements in their creative work, Moss helped Thompson further her career by recommending her to Arizona State University, and upon her return to Maine in 1985, the two shared a studio together. Eventually they parted ways, and Transformit was founded in 1988. Since then the company has produced a number of prestigious exhibits, and even collaborated with Duvall Designs on a few projects.

Moss eventually moved to Arizona where he found luxury as a painter before his death in 1994 at the age of 72. But Bill Moss leaves behind an intangible legacy and tradition of fabric structures that is carried on by those who cherished and respected him. Companies like Moss Tent Works (eventually traded to REI and renamed Moss, Inc.), Duvall Designs, Transformit, and us here at Rubb, Inc. owe our thanks and appreciation to the ingenuity of the man known as the father of tension fabric – Charles William Moss.


A Day of Firsts for Women in Aviation

Be it commercial flight, space aeronautics, or military piloting, here at Rubb, Inc. we are very interested in anything under the umbrella of aviation. Rubb has supplied aircraft hangars, air cargo facilities and ground support buildings, including airport terminals, to numerous airlines, airports, military organizations, and even NASA for over thirty years. And although our buildings are as dependable, if not more, than they were thirty years ago, there have been many milestones in the world of aerial navigation since the turn of the twentieth century. Two of the most significant of those milestones occurred on June 18th in the years 1928 and 1983, and they were pioneered by two of the most influential American women to date.

Amelia_EarhartAmelia Earhart, born on July 24th, 1897, was a natural adventurer and tomboy, making her the perfect candidate for piloting. After a ten-minute passenger flight in 1920, Earhart knew that she belonged in the air, and spent the following year saving up for flight lessons. On May 23rd, 1923, Earhart became the 16th woman in history to be issued a pilots licence, and after five years of activity in the aviation community she finally had the opportunity to put her ability to the test. On June 18th, 1928, Earhart successfully landed in South Wales, England after a 20 hour and 40 minute flight across the Atlantic from Newfoundland, Canada. That day would forever be known by the first transatlantic solo flight piloted by a woman. Earhart continued to make aviation history through other solo transoceanic flights as well as in long-distance air racing competitions until her disappearance in 1937 during an attempt to fly across the world. Her reputation and fame, however, proceeds her, as she is known today as one of the most remembered and accomplished pilots in history.

Sally RideSally Ride was born on May 26th, 1951, and like Earhart, was very passionate in everything she did. So after receiving a bachelor’s degree in English and Physics, followed by her master’s degree and Ph.D. in Physics from Stanford University, she was an obvious candidate for the NASA space program which she joined in 1978. After five years of aeronautic development, ground communication, and astronaut training, she was ready for her first flight into space. On June 18th, 1983, Ride became the first American woman in space aboard the space shuttle Challenger, and would spend over 300 hours in space during the rest of her NASA career. Ride later retired from NASA and carried out the rest of her life teaching, writing, and encouraging science in education. She died of pancreatic cancer in 2012 at age 61. Ride is one of the most esteemed astronauts of our time, whose legacy lives on through her achievements in aviation.

June 18th has become a day to remember for aviation lovers across the world. So in honor of Earhart and Ride and all of their accomplishments, Rubb would like to say thank you to all of the aviation pioneers out there. And in the words of Earhart herself, “The most effective way to do it is to do it.”

Art or Architecture: From Stone to Fabric

Göbekli TepeAs we progress further into the 21st century, so does the structure of our society; quite literally in fact. The demand for unique, creative, and contemporary buildings is more prevalent now than ever before, and that begs the question; is it art or is it architecture?

Architecture is one of the oldest professions known to man. From the Neolithic period came Göbekli Tepe, also known as the World’s first temple, which is a formation of stacked stones that dates back almost twelve thousand years. From Ancient Mesopotamia came ziggurats, giant monoliths that incorporated a long staircase leading to a terraced roof. From the Ancient Egyptian Pyramids of Giza, to the Persian Persepolis, to India’s Taj Mahal, architecture is a prominent and historic part of every culture. And although we classify them as aesthetically pleasing relics now, they were initially built with practicality in mind, rather than style.

Although artistic architecture has become widely accepted as hip and exclusive in today’s day and age, so much that the two almost seem to be synonymous, that was not necessarily the case in the early 20th century. Expressionist Architecture was seen as a protest movement surrounding the activities of World War I with the intention of opening the doors to a futuristic and Utopian society. Many of these Expressionists came from the central European avant guarde, and pioneered the use of new building materials such as steel, concrete, glass, and fabric, as well as experimented with distortion of space and curvature in their designs to reflect the emotion and mood of that period. Some examples include the Grundtvig’s Church in Copenhagen, Denmark completed in 1940, the famously known Sydney Opera House in Sydney, Australia completed in 1973, and Frei Otto’s fabric tension coverings on the Tuwaiq Palace in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia completed in 1985.

Since the turn of the century, almost anything goes when considering a design, and that includes the adoption of fabric structures like Otto’s. Within the boundaries of construction codes, buildings can be as big or as strange as your heart desires, further Home Within Homeblurring the line between art and architecture. Take, for example, artist Do Ho Suh’s exhibit at the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in Gwacheon, South Korea titled Home within Home within Home within Home within Home. This whimsical masterpiece is made up of a thin wire frame that is tightly and delicately wrapped in deep blue silk fabric, and replicates Suh’s different residencies: one of his childhood home in Korea and the other of his first apartment in the United States. Another example of artistic architecture, or architectural art, is Peter Steinhauer’s photographic series titled Cocoons 1 and Cocoons 2. These vibrantly colorful and intricate pictures capture bamboo framework covered in dyed silk fabric that envelops buildings under construction in Hong Kong, China, and are a true testament to the symbiotic relationship of art and architecture.

UCLAEven here at Rubb, Inc., we consider both functionality and presentation when designing our fabric buildings. One of our most noted structures was a temporary facility to house the Powell Library at the University of California, Los Angeles, which was featured on the cover of Architectural Record Magazine in March 1993. And over twenty years later, we are still committed to the same ideals in regards to art in architecture. Designed to inspire – Engineered to impress.