Hoop House (2018)

Hoop House is a design/fabrication project in partnership with Phipps Conservatory. A hoop house is a structure created with the intent to maintain warmth in a space throughout cold winter months. It emulates a small-scale greenhouse and is often made of a tightly stretched plastic paired with a rigid structural material, but should still be light enough to move. Designed by a team of five: Joanne Chui, Yingying Yan, Ammar Hassonjee, Taisei Manheim, and Samuel Losi, this hoop house plays on the dueling aesthetics of amoeba-esque rope joints and an ordered Y-shaped structure.

A few notable things came from researching precedents of hoop houses. Firstly, the method of inner access was always the dealbreaker for functioning as a warmth-containing enclosure. The final design’s zipper opening is rationalized by its ease of access, and air-tightness. And secondly, each hoop house we found used the aluminum-conduit skeleton as “drive-curves,” where the plastic, once pulled taught around the structure, was defined by sweeping curves.

This take on the hoop-house design uses a series of “drive-points” to determine the shape of the plastic. We concocted a joint that consists of two washers adhered together and held it by tensioned rope to the skeleton. The surrounding Y-structure provides an extra layer of structure for Pittsburgh’s heavy snowfall.

Fabrication went smoothly. In the making process, our team divided up the work and all contributed their all. Diligent planning paid off as we budgeted, bought, and assembled the hoop house with ease. We then celebrated as we transported the hoop house to the conservatory and fixed it to the ground with aluminum-conduit stakes attached to the overall structure.

The process of designing this hoop house was rocky. Our team disagreed a fair amount on the design aesthetic, but worked through it in numerous quarter-inch scale models. Though the contrasting aesthetics of this project stayed with this project from start to end, we can confidently say we had a working design; plants were healthy throughout the winter.