The evolution of fabric structures spans from the simple tents of ancient civilisations to the creative and flexible designs that are pushing the boundaries of modern architecture today.
Why fabric is fantastic
Traditional construction materials such as metal, stone, and cement now have a friend in fabric. Tensile architecture provides a flexibility that cannot be achieved with other construction materials.
Advances in technology, together with the work of renowned architect, Frei Otto, are largely responsible for the rise in popularity of fabric architecture. According to RIBA, Otto’s interest in function, minimalism and structure have led to a revival of the tensile form.
Technology, tents and trends
Companies are creating designs that add exciting visual interest and creativity. Demand is also increasing for bespoke design and innovative tensile architecture. Versatile alternatives are available, such as the fabric structures by Fabric Architecture.
Large scale fabric projects range from sports venues, to the impressive Haj Terminal in Saudi Arabia. The latter covers a vast 105 acres with 210 cone-shaped canopies providing shelter to over one hundred thousand pilgrims travelling to Mecca.
Gone are the days of the standard white tent. A variety of colours are available resulting in branding and marketing opportunities. In addition, the increasing use of inflatable tensile structures is having a great impact on the development of the product.
These are easily portable and are currently popular at concerts and open-air events. The product is naturally translucent and so, with simple illumination, can have a powerful marketing impact.
Tensile architecture requires fewer traditional building components, and therefore can be easily installed and removed. In a fast-moving world, the facility to build and take down at speed and with ease is appealing.
Costs of fabric structures are lower than ever. The “building” is lightweight requiring less steel and reduced maintenance. The fabric reflects the sun, adding to energy efficiency. In addition, modern tensile fabrics can withstand harsh weather conditions, from the Arctic to the desert.
Customisation is the trend of the moment. Recent advances in the development of kinetic options, such as retractable walls and ceilings offer a versatility that bricks and mortar cannot provide.
It’s clear that fabric offers a dynamic and elegant design alternative, and is set to continue to grow in popularity in future.