What We Do
Few methods of building match the drama and delight of lightweight tensile structures. Expressing the natural qualities of architectural membranes brings curvature, translucency and clear spans to external and internal space.
Since Frei Otto’s groundbreaking work evolved the concept of sophisticated tensile structures, the use of fabric membranes as an exciting alternative to conventional structures has fascinated many designers. Tension structures are architectural membranes which, when stressed, will naturally assume minimal surfaces of maximum efficiency. They are undoubtedly a rapid form of construction, and whether temporary structures or permanent, swift site installation can make a positive difference to the overall viability of a project.
Tensile fabric structures have properties quite distinct from other building materials and require a clear understanding of the guiding principles if they are to be handled successfully.
The use of architectural fabric structures in exhibitions, events and the entertainment industry is particularly attractive. Comprising a multitude of different fabrics and textures - both printed and unprinted – it is essential to ensure flexibility between venues while coping with the characteristic urgency dictated by these demanding sectors.
As fabric possesses a unique translucent quality, light is able to permeate through in a beautifully diffused way. This can allow softened natural illumination to provide a background light source during the daytime, or enable theatrical effects to be exploited using artificial light at night time. Much architectural delight may be achieved by the careful manipulation of a material that glows.
The visual delicacy created by fabric architecture has led to the misconception that tensile structures are temporary building types. In fact, with a design life of more than 30 years, fabric structures can last generations and conform to the same structural codes as conventional buildings. With no rigidity, all panels may be rolled up, enabling ease of transportation and minimal on-site fabrication. The potential lifespan of fabric structures is several decades, making fabric architecture a commercially viable option. The development of high-tech synthetic fabrics and surface coatings provide materials with increased durability and can even create fabrics with self-cleaning properties. Tensile fabric structures are a unique addition to a project, not only providing the structure of a building envelope but also enabling us to consider different methods of creating environments – rather than boxing space in, fabric structures allow space to be wrapped.
Tensile structures as they appear today have been in existence for less than five decades and must be considered as still in their infancy. Their utilisation has been accelerated by the development of two key factors: firstly, man-made fabrics have been created that combine sufficient strength to span large distances with the durability to stand as fairly permanent structures and secondly, there has been rapid advances in computing that enables us to create accurate 3D structural analysis and to cut patterns in an economically viable manner.
The integration of tensile fabric structures into buildings is both an artistic and intellectual challenge to creative designers. Architen Landrell exists to bring a passion for the discipline to projects of all sizes.