U2 World Tour 2009 – Fabric Structure

Written by in Knowledge & CPD

Tensile fabric is a versatile building material that can mould itself to the most unique and innovative design briefs, it can create infrastructure that no other traditional building material can match.

Often you will find tensile fabric structures take one of four main forms, this is by no means limited and increasingly architects are designing more weird and wonderful complex creations which only fabric can accommodate.

One of these four main forms that fabric takes is the hyperbolic parabaloid or hypar as its more commonly called. A hypar structure takes on a kite shaped, and a true hypar is a quadrilateral that is tensioned at all four corners creating two high and two low points to create opposing curves.

Structures can also take on a conic or umbrella shape which also adopts double curvature to give it strength. In this case, the loads are spread horizontally around the full fabric form and vertically from the apex to the base.

Although it features double curvature in similar ways to the other forms, the arch shape is created with an inner steel, aluminium or timber structure which tensions the membrane in place and creates those curves.

These three shapes all adopt an anticlastic form, whereby the opposing curves allow the fabric to carry the loads across the weaves, for example one direction of the weave carries the snow load, and the other direction of the weave carries another.

The final form of tensile architecture is the cushion form, which works slightly differently as it adopts a synclastic form which means that the centres of curvature cross at a single point. Cushions are created where constant air pressure forms the fabric into a shape and maintains that tension. 

Other than these predefined shapes, tensile fabric lends itself to being twisted, turned and manipulated like no other building material. Some of the more unusual projects weve done include a claw stage for U2, a giant upside down purple inflatable cow for the E4 Udderbelly Festival and a clam shaped mobile acoustic performance stage.

But dont just take our word for it, have a look at our portfolio for further examples.


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Author: Architen Landrell

For over 30 years, Architen has been at the forefront of the tensile fabric industry.

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