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The Art of Transformation

YOU MIGHT SAY fabric design runs in Gisela Stromeyer's blood-specifically, the blood of four generations of German tentmakers. Today, Stromeyer relies on her family tradition to design bold, innovative creations that magically transform indoor environments.

"I use the concept of tentmaking to create sculpture," says Stromeyer, noting that her goal is to change the dynamics of a space "to form an environment with soft shapes and forms" that also incorporate lighting.

Stromeyer stresses the importance of integrating elements. When designing an event, she considers the space, her client's needs and the nature of the event-a performance, a formal meal and so on.

For New York's Whitney Museum gala this spring-a prestigious annual fund-raiser attended by patrons of the arts-she transformed the museum's austere, concrete lobby into a warm, mysterious environment that was sleek and futuristic, yet comfortingly womb-like.

Stromeyer created an inviting tunnel out of fabric about 50 feet long through which some 600 guests entered the building from the sidewalk. The sculpted Lycra passage was stretched by fiberglass bows, attached to the ceiling and pulled to the floor by weights. Once the guests walked through this burrow, they were led into a larger, 80-foot-long by 20-foot-wide reception area enclosed in fabric and illuminated with rose light.

The purpose of the design "was to change the environment completely," Stromeyer says. "The fabric is inviting, it has a sensuous flow. You didn't see anything of the lobby anymore."

This transformation was no small feat, considering the short notice she received for this assignment. Says Stromeyer: "There was a last-minute change, and I had only two weeks" to design, fabricate and install the fabric extravaganza.

The good news? "The fabric is fairly flexible," she says, "so I can accommodate changes."-T.M.

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