Folded Beauty

People sitting at round tables at a party
  • Location: Redcat Gallery, Los Angeles
  • Status: Completed
  • Year: 2015
  • Filed in: Cultural

Claret-Cup was invited by Ruth Estevez, Gallery Director at REDCAT, to design the environment for the institution’s Annual Gala, one of Los Angeles’ most photogenic art events that takes place in the REDCAT theater located in Disney Concert Hall.

Once a year, the theater seating is removed, leaving a 60’x 100′ x 30′ black box for the event that throws the spotlight on REDCAT’s most influential donors. The project brief called for the transformation of the space into a vibrant stage for the cultural community.

Folded Beauty, Claret-Cup’s proposal for this temporary installation, considers all aspects of the environment for the event, including an origami-folded ceiling in the theatre, dinner table centerpieces, event takeaways, and the design of the lobby environment.

Besides being an architectural solution, the project presents an opportunity to contribute to the ongoing discourse on how culture is generated in the city. Each contributing element deploys a map of Los Angeles’ artistic landscape, derived by seeking out the city’s cultural actors through savvy searches on Google Maps. The search terms tease out culture, whether high or low, pop-, sub- or underground from unexpected folds of the city, and suggest their suffusing one another with vitality. The map exposes community, with each actor contributing to the whole. The lighted tetrahedral takeaways at each table are folded from strips of the entire map, creating a conceptual community when each attendee takes home a slice of the map.

The proposal harnesses the theater’s own mechanisms for transformation and combines modular fabrication processes and meticulous craft to achieve a bespoke environment, installed over the course of a few days.

The ceiling canopy is composed of 400 modules, printed with fragments of the Los Angeles cultural map on fire-resistant floor protection paper used in construction. Modules of three different sizes are created by folding map fragments into giant paper fortune tellers. This creates three-dimensional depth without any secondary structure. The modules are folded and assembled into clusters by a team of architecture students and theater volunteers. The sheer size of the larger modules requires a coordinated “performance” by a behind-the-scenes cast of musicians, craftspeople, and aerial silks artists. After the clusters are arranged into an artificial firmament, the theater riggings are lowered, and the clusters are affixed to the theater’s own gantry with hundreds of invisible fishing lines. The only moment of stage-fright comes when the 40′ x 80′ canopy mechanically floats up to its final position.

While the project’s architectural footprint is ephemeral by design, the process of its production leaves an indelible mark on the studio, also by design. Stagecraft such as rigging and stage lighting complete the proposal and suffuse it with the magic originally envisioned.


Ruth Estevez, Director and Curator of the REDCAT Gallery (at the time)
Bill Ballou, Technical Director, REDCAT

Paper installation at gala
Performance under paper installation
Glowing paper art on a dark table
Paper art detail
Empty tables with lighting
Glowing paper art closeup
Folded paper maps on surface with name cards