Tensile Structures and The ones Most Commonly Found

Fabric architecture has come on leaps and bounds in recent years, allowing businesses and institutions to make use of some ground breaking shapes and technologies, far beyond what simple bricks and mortar can provide. You can have temporary to permanent buildings made and even use a Fabric Roof Structure on them to create several different looks and designs. To find out more on what can be achieved and what options are available for you there are websites like www.spatialstructures.com/building-systems-explained who can help.

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Tensile is one of the most common forms of fabric architecture, and are formed when fabrics are manipulated by tension to form breathtaking shapes and curves. Here are some common terms for you.

The Membrane

The membrane is the outer structure of a tensile shape. By their nature fabrics tend to have different strengths depending on the direction they are being pulled. This is due to the structure of the warp and the weft.

The warp is the original set of fibres through which the weft in woven. The warp can, therefore, withstand more tension than the weft, which means the fabric must be used carefully in order to ensure the tension falls predominantly on the warp.

Anticlastic Forms

These shapes use opposing curvatures, formed by the exertion of pressure at different points on the membrane, to create curved shapes such as a hyperbolic paraboloid, which is most likely to form a wide, curving roof, as well as cone or arch shapes.

Synclastic Forms

Synclastic forms are created using pressure from within the structure caused by trapped air. This is visible in balloons, where the structure is kept in shape by the air within. In the same way, inflatable fabric structures in a variety of other shapes can be created.

Coated Fabrics

In architecture tensile membranes tend to be strong materials such as polyester coated in PVC or fibreglass treated with PTFE. By using these materials architects are able to ensure the membranes they create are strong and weather proof.

Uncoated Fabrics

Some architects prefer to use more natural, untreated materials. While Architen warns that these may need to be replaced more often, they are often kinder to the environment. Any woven fibres without the addition of a plastic-based coating can be used, although the resulting structure may not be weather-proof.

Tensiles can be a great way to create dramatic and unusual shapes without the immovable permanence of solid structures, but with the staying power that most fabric structures lack. Whatever your project, rest assured these fabric structures are here to stay.

About the author


Kim Lee lives in Tampa, Florida and focuses on living an intentionally happy life, helping others live better, and having a whole lot of fun. She loves to write, read, enjoy the outdoors, and play with dogs.

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