First Ascent Ceiling Cloud Brings the Mountains Indoors

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Photos (c) 2015 Fabric Images, Inc.

Located in Chicago, IL, First Ascent brings world class rock climbing to the community.  The 25,000 sf. facility offers guests an escape from the flat Midwest plains with climbs up to 55 ft. in height.   Upon entering the reception area, guests are immediately engaged with an artistic interpretation of a terrain well known to the climbing community; the Red River Gorge in Kentucky.  This unique ceiling cloud combines brand personality and purpose with functionality.

Presenting the first impression of the facility, the ceiling cloud, designed and manufactured by Fabric Images, Inc., showcases what the brand is about- servicing and growing Chicago’s vibrant climbing community.  Within the expanse of the space, the form, which covers roughly 654 sf., carves out volume, lowers the ceiling and prepares guests for their entry into the climbing facility.

The design of the ceiling cloud is based on a terrain sampling within the Red River Gorge.  Using an aerial elevation of the topographical mapping, a sampling was taken which formed the outline and placed the linear contours within the shape.


The vertical undulation was then developed mathematically using a formula which mapped forces of imaginary lines from point to point along the perimeter.  In order to enhance the flow of the space, the cloud tapers in height from front to back, directing guests from reception to the climbing facility.



While the shape and undulation offer flow within the environment, it is the materials which bring the cloud to life.  A dense, high-quality felt, ranging in color from grays to oranges, offers the flexible quality to form the rugged curvatures and flowing undulations.  Cut based on patterns created out of Rhino, the individual sections of material were then applied to a custom ceiling panel system through a tongue-and-groove style application.


The design application not only adds to the aesthetic quality of the space, but also creates a barrier to control acoustics.  The density of the felt material creates a natural sound absorption surface, while a perforated pattern within the ceiling panel system scatters sound, enabling it to escape.

Offering an escape to avid climbers, it was important that the design placed in the reception area reflect the strong, dynamic personality of the brand while welcoming guests.  Through a design that is dedicated to rock climbing and has a deep connection to the Red River Gorge, the ceiling cloud not only adds form to the space, but enhances the experience that each guest receives.




Client: First Ascent

Design: Fabric Images, Inc.

Engineering: Fabric Images, Inc.

Fabrication: Fabric Images, Inc.

Installation: Fabric Images, Inc.

Fabric Images

Fabric Images, Inc. is a premier manufacturer of printed and non-printed tension fabric architecture and material solutions. Our focus is on integrating structural frame and textiles into environments to enrich brand quality and the expressive identity of a space.

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