Tents can be evocative of many different types of experiences and memories for people. Many children first experienced nature by sleeping out in a tent in their backyards, others went to see trapeze artists and lion tamers in the big top of the traveling circus or livestock and fresh vegetables at the county fair, people have had spiritual guidance in tents, gotten married, heard live theater or music or danced their first dance; others voted for the first time in a tent.
In New York City, a stretch fabric "tent structure" used in a national park provided an identity for the park, involved artists in its creation and yet provided shade and shelter to people using the park. In a small town in the Czech Republic, a gypsy tent was put in the center of the town square as a way of educating the children of the community about gypsy life. When the children went inside the tent, they often drew picture of their experiences and these were hung around the outside of the tent.
The French could be considered the tent experts in their use of awnings, outdoor café umbrellas and with each increase in the number of people using a restaurant, another overhead structure is pulled out of nowhere to create the setting for the eating, drinking and people watching that is essential to any great public space.
Tents come in many forms. They can be a simple awning over a shop window, umbrellas at an outdoor cafe, small fabric structures that define the spaces and vendors at a farmers market, to large tents that are used for a variety of purposes in public spaces. The possibilities are endless.
Tents serve many difference purposes. Used effectively a tent can provide a range of functions in a public space and often provide an opportunity to be creative in their design.
Some of the specific uses that a tent can be put to include:
Shelter and identity for an event that is occurring in a space, particularly if the tent is dramatically designed.
Temporary space and shelter for economic activity such as for crafts or farmers markets, or for outdoor dining.
Identity for a specific area such as a gateway for a city or to cover a specific area of a space. Las Vegas has recently used a tent to create an environment covering their "main street."