Fabric Structures and Horst, Hypars and Hospitals

This week The FabricArchitect looks at the letter “H”. The first things that come to mind are:

  • Horst (Berger)
  • Hypars
  • Hospitals

I first started studying fabric structures at Rensselaer in 1985. One of my thesis advisors was an Engineering professor named Bill Spillers. Bill recently passed away in 2010. When I asked him to help me with my thesis on Fabric Structures in Housing, he told me the person you need to meet first is Host Berger.


You cant’ talk about fabric structures without talking about one of the great pioneers in the industry: Horst Berger. Besides “Frei”, he is one of the few personalities in the industry who is recognized by a single name.

Born and educated in Germany,  Horst joined Severud Associates in New York City and worked on projects such as the St. Louis Arch, Madison Square Garden, and Toronto City Hall. In 1968, he formed Geiger Berger Associates with David Geiger and gained international fame for creating a specialized firm devoted to air and tension structures for permanent applications. There are a number of engineers around the world who gained experience in tension structures from their time spent at Geiger  Berger.

Berger  is credited for designing and engineering a number of structures and was instrumental in both the 105-acre roof for the Haj Terminal  and the Denver Airport which recently was awarded the 25 year award from the AIA.

He’s still around and loves talking fabric structures. www.horstberger.com

His book, Light Structures: Structures of Light inspired me to write my own book, Fabric Architecture


I can give you all the mathematical jargon on what a Hyperbolic paraboloid is but it wont help you get your fabric structure get built. What you need to know is that this is the starting point to any fabric structure. All fabric structures need to have some form of a hypar or saddle shape to be stable. Hypars must have at least four points (two high and two low and opposite each other). Designers as well as fabricators love hypars. You can create endless concepts but you have to follow the rules.


Hospitals need Fabric Structures. From covered parking to covered walkways to entry canopies to interior applications, a hospital has a number of places for fabric structures.  Besides UV protections, fabric structures are ideal for shading outdoor spaces for the elderly as well as playgrounds for the children. It can be used in outdoor seating areas for employees and screen mechanical equipment.

Next we go to “I”


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