The Fundamental Theories of Tensile Fabric Architecture

tensile fabricFabric is so different from structures made of other building materials. First off, they are lightweight and versatile, which gives them unique dynamics and exciting multi-dimensional options, but they come with a few challenges as well.

Fabric architects not only have to factor in the complexity of the structure but also how to make it beautiful.

One of the advantages of fabric structures is that they need few components, but they offer a myriad of creative design options. For example, manufacturers make tents to withstand heavy loads by basing them off a few principles.

The principles assume that membrane structures need double curvatures to resist loads. Imagine a piece of fabric. The fabric can only withstand snow, for example, if there is tension on the horizontal fibres.

It is a lot like a parabolic arc or making a catenary cable that assumes under its weight with support only at the ends.

The hyperbolic paraboloid structures

In a classic-shaped hyperbolic construction, the fabric is restrained at the corner points. The two points that are higher supply the downward force, while the low points resist with an uplift force.

If the fabric is flat, you will need higher loads at the corners to keep it upright. The paraboloid works well because there are opposing curvatures.

Canopy shaped fabric structures

Manufacturers make tensile canopies to form cone-shaped structures. The surface of the fabric adopts the characteristics of double curvature.

Designers have to explore their creative genius within the confines of the structural requirement of the fabric surface. Even when they form new shapes or add elements, they have to retain the double curvature.

Pre-stress or arch form structures

Fabric structures can also be leaf-like. Here, the designer has to introduce pre-stress force as they erect the structure. How much stress they introduce about the curvatures will determine how the structure appears.

Thanks to technology, designers can now use computers to calculate exact quantities of pre-stress that they need to form certain shapes.

Fabric structures are often an inspirational form of architecture. They can make impressive arrangements for almost every occasion from sporting events to shopping complexes. The catch is to get a professional who knows how to leverage tensile fabric in exterior projects.