When we think of tensile design applications in architecture, we tend to imagine roofs and pavilions. These arching and graceful shapes are becoming a more noticeable feature in our city and town environments. With this, the question arises – why limit ourselves to these two uses when so many others may be possible?
Although tensile structures can be a complex element of architectural design, they can also be one of the simplest. Technically, a tensile structure is one that creates span and carries tension through the elements without bending or compressing. In essence, these are the same rules used when a tent is erected with ropes and poles creating tension across the fabric.
Working in temporary designs, these structures can be very modest and can be delivered in a range of materials. It is through this attitude of experimentation that many creative uses for tensile facades are being pioneered.
Exploring the outer limits
Working in tension is all about pushing the boundaries to create the new. Pritzker Prize Laureate Frei Otto is a revolutionary in this field. Through his use of tensile designs in a variety of multipurpose buildings, including an Olympic stadium, flexible and adaptable surfaces were first used to create sunshades and features of interest.
Creating sustainable design
The ever-increasing need for green building design has been one of the elements responsible for pushing design innovation. As Buckminster Fuller showed in his Phoenix Central Library building, creating the level of cooling required to make a building welcoming and accommodating in the Sonoran Desert climate didn’t need to cost the earth.
Using a roof tensegrity system which he called a “shading sail”, Fuller created structures perfectly aligned to the strong sun, dramatically reducing cooling needs while creating elements of interest on the facade. In 2010, the building was awarded LEED Existing Buildings Silver 2.0 designation.
With so many benefits to be garnered from tensile design in building projects, many clients are keen to incorporate Tensile Fabric Structures into their projects. If you have a business that needs this kind of design one option available is www.spatialstructures.com/building-systems-explained. Projects using a cross-collaborative approach ensure a continual exchange of ideas.
In the ever-changing world of architecture and design, embracing tensile design’s cultural and environmental dialogs allows new ideas to emerge. Both of which can lead to happier clients and communities.