The central gallery in the 50,000-square-foot Moody Center for the Arts at Houston’s Rice University is used for dance performances and social functions as well as traveling art exhibitions. The ability to close off part of the multifunctional space but still have it feel connected to the rest of the floor adds to its creative energy.

That’s the reason Michael Maltzan Architecture in Los Angeles came up with its flexible stainless-steel mesh partition—a custom-designed curtain from Cambridge Architectural that serves as the space’s hardworking partition.

To fit the scale of the room, Cambridge Architectural wove together two 11 1⁄2-foot-high curtain panels, one measuring around 46 feet and the other 25 1⁄2. (The mesh is hung sideways so it can pivot at the rods, to allow the curtains to collapse and fold.) The result is a dynamic alternative to solid partitions. The mesh in Cambridge’s Mid Balance pattern has a 50 percent open area, providing more transparency than some of the more tightly woven meshes do. “This curtain retains the open-design intent,” says Dave Zeitlin, a spokesman for the manufacturer.

For the gallery's high-volume traffic, architects needed something durable that wouldn’t noticeably show wear over time. The curtains also serve a protective function when closing off valuable art, so engineers at Cambridge designed a system to hook them to floor and ceiling tracks that can be locked in place when the partition is extended to seal off the room.