Neal Feay partnered with New York-based architects formlessfinder to create Tent Pile, the installation that marked the entrance to Design Miami/ in December. Each year, Design Miami/ builds a designed environment for the fair’s entrance as part of its biannual Design Commissions program.

Harnessing multiple, often unexpected, properties of sand and aluminum, the Tent Pile pavilion provided shade, seating, cool air and a space to play for the city’s public. The pavilion’s dramatic aluminum roof miraculously balanced on the apex of a great pyramid of loose sand. Milled aluminum benches give resting space in the shade, where visitors experienced the cool air naturally generated by the structure.

Founded by Neal F. Rasmussen in 1945, Neal Feay remains unrivalled its groundbreaking work in anodized aluminum. Alex Rasmussen, the third generation to take over the family business, has pioneered new uses and techniques for aluminum in art, architecture and design objects. Having worked with a variety of artists and architects, designers and makers, the partnership with formlessfinder was a natural one.

Tent Pile focused on two phenomena very important to its environment in Miami – the ubiquity of sand in the region, the golden grains that lie beneath the foundations of every building in the city and beyond, and the architecture of the area, a kind of tropical post-war modernism distinguished by hybrid indoor/outdoor spaces of which the cantilevered roof seemed particularly emblematic. Neal Feay worked with aluminum powerhouse Alcoa to bring the structure to life.

The pavilion takes the sand that is elsewhere so problematic and uses it to advantage. The sand which is so destabilizing for architectural projects elsewhere in Miami here becomes the stabilizing element of the structure, mooring the lightweight aluminum roof, in lieu of an excavated foundation, for the cantilever, while also being a zero-waste material, completely re-usable after its time at the pavilion.

A retaining wall appears to slice the pyramid of sand in half, creating a more ordered space immediately in front of the entrance to the fair. Large sheets of aluminum fixed to simple wood bases provided bench seating in a variety of sizes, foregrounding the raw nature of the materials used. Arranged in a 500-ton pyramid the sand had a thermal mass cooling effect – metal fins driven through the retaining wall into the sand drew the cool temperature into the seating area, and simple fans created a refreshing breeze rippling out from the wall.

The pavilion acted as a refuge for the more than 50,000 visitors who came to Miami for the fair, as well as inhabitants of the city’s South Beach neighborhood. It was a public installation that married the practical requirements of shelter and seating to spectacular creative ideas. Tent Pile engaged not only with materials and aesthetics specific to Miami, but to the location of the fair within the city – the pyramid of sand is there to be sat on and played in, the cooling fans to be approached, examined and enjoyed. “We’re hoping to create something that people would want to participate in,” says Garrett Ricciardi, co-founder of formlessfinder, and the result is a structure designed to be occupied and explored, as much as it is to be admired.



Founded by Neal F. Rasmussen in 1945 to create gifts and consumer products in anodized aluminum, Neal Feay remains unrivalled in achieving the beauty of aluminum oxide anodized coating. Alex Rasmussen, the third generation to take over the family business, has pioneered new uses for aluminum, new techniques for its use in design objects, and has established Neal Feay as leaders in digital fabrication. Having recently ventured into product design, the company now works with a broad array of internationally renowned artists, architects and designers; current and previous projects include collaborations with Kenzo, Opening Ceremony, Louis Vuitton, Marc Newson, Holly Hunt and Peter Alexander, to name a few.


formlessfinder is a laboratory for methodological experimentation oriented toward the introduction of moments of formlessness into architecture.  Part dictionary, part product catalog, part archive, part database, part interactive design tool, its contents and products range from traditional architectural representations such as models and drawings to videos, photography, structural and material tests, writings, and interviews.  The relationship between these inputs and outputs is not fixed, and formlessfinder allows continual reshuffling of its content as additional terms or ideas are introduced, others are eliminated, and new possibilities are uncovered.  formlessfinder was created by Garrett Ricciardi and Julian Rose and exists as the nexus of their ongoing collaboration.


Alcoa is the world’s leading producer of primary and fabricated aluminum, as well as the world’s largest miner of bauxite and refiner of alumina. In addition to inventing the modern-day aluminum industry, Alcoa innovation has been behind major milestones in the aerospace, automotive, packaging, building and construction, commercial transportation, consumer electronics and industrial markets over the past 125 years. Among the solutions Alcoa markets are flat-rolled products, hard alloy extrusions, and forgings, as well as Alcoa® wheels, fastening systems, precision and investment castings, and building systems in addition to its expertise in other light metals such as titanium and nickel-based super alloys. Sustainability is an integral part of Alcoa’s operating practices and the product design and engineering it provides to customers. Alcoa has been a member of the Dow Jones Sustainability Index for 11 consecutive years and approximately 75 percent of all of the aluminum ever produced since 1888 is still in active use today. Alcoa employs approximately 61,000 people in 30 countries across the world. For more information, visit and follow @Alcoa on Twitter at