Category Archives: washington DC

2017: Towards a Clear and Vertical Fabric Architecture

It’s time to look back on the year that was. And some thoughts on the year to come.

In the fabric structure industry here in the USA, two major projects caught my eye: Viking Stadium in Minneapolis, MN and the Stadiums at the US Open in Flushing Meadows, NY.

vikingstadiumta-597187860To the general public, the roof of the new Viking Stadium looks like a typical glass skylight but just the idea of watching a sporting event in a temperature controlled environment yet still being able to see the sky is what will become common in the future.

ETFE is the word of the year and a close second is transparency.

063471_013Designers will see new potential for mall renovations, airports, transit stations just to name a few. Developers and users will insist their traveling and shopping experience never be rained out. For those of us that want to look small, look no further to outdoor school areas, home extensions and public plazas to have “clear” roofs.

To see and be seen.

arthur-ashe-stadium-debut-retractable-roof-2016-us-tennis-open-01The US Open Tennis Facility in NY showed the sports world here in the US that a retractable roofs is no longer an option but a necessity. Is Met Life Stadium next?

It may look like a smaller version of the Dallas Cowboy stadium roof but it works in an urban context. The upcoming Atlanta Falcons Stadium roof will show case the retractable roof as an iconic piece of the Architecture in the city.

rossetti_usta_gs_792_0Another upcoming necessity will be the textile facade like seen at the Bille Jean King Court a the US Open. The facade will be seen more in convention building types. Old and new sports facilities will be wearing temporary or permanent coats. Designed using parametric equations and fluid dynamics or just plain and simple, these new facades will be ever changing billboards, climates changers and visual jewelry for buildings of all shapes and sizes from offices to warehouses to industrial buildings.

And “textile facades” work small too. They can screen mechanical systems, parking garages and a neighbor in style.

The Sky’s the limit and so is the horizon in 2017.

Have a Happy New Year!

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April Showers bring May Flowers

We’ve all heard the expression “April Showers bring May Flowers”.

This view is looking east, with the Hudson River behind me. Note the Empire State Building on the left side of the photo... ***************************************** Let me begin with a disclaimer: I do not dance the tango, and I know little or nothing about its history, its folklore, or even its steps and rhythms. I'm vaguely aware that it originated in Argentina (and Uruguay) in the 1890s, that a new style known as "tango nuevo" began to emerge in the late 1990s, and that various actors and actresses -- including Jessica Biel, Colin Firth, Antonio Banderas, Madonna, Richard Gere, Jennifer Lopez, Jamie Lee Curtis, and Arnold Schwarzenegger(!), among others -- have performed the tango in various movies. But beyond that, it never really occurred to me that it played any significant role here in the U.S. That is, not until the summer of 2009, when I happened to return to my hotel, on a business trip to Washington, DC, just as a local gathering of tango aficionados was dancing to their music in a nearby square known as Freedom Plaza. I photographed the event (see my Flickr set Last tango in Washington) and learned from one of the participants that there were similar informal events in New York City, at the South Street seaport, during the summer and fall weekends. When I got back to New York, I searched on the Internet, and found a schedule of upcoming tango events just as my Washington acquaintance had indicated; but travel schedules, inclement weather, and other distractions prevented me from actually attending any of them; by the end of the autumn season, I had forgotten all about it. For some reason, something reminded me of the tango again this spring -- perhaps some music that I overheard, perhaps a scene on some otherwise forgettable television show. In any case, I searched again on the Internet, and discovered that a tango "event" would be taking place on a Sunday afternoon -- but not at the South Street Seaport (on the east side of Manhattan, near the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges), but rather at Pier 45, where Christopher Street runs into the Hudson River in Greenwich Village. The event was scheduled to take place between 3:30 and 7:30 PM, and another quick search on the Internet informed me that sunset would occur at 7:30 PM. So I arrived a little before 6 PM, as the sun was beginning to drop down in the western sky, and photographed for a little more than an hour. I captured some 522 images, of which 75 have survived in this Flickr set. For the majority of the photos, I stood at the end of the pier, with my back to the Hudson River and the sinking sun; the sun broken in and out of clouds on the horizon -- and because I was wearing sunglasses, I didn't fully appreciate the extent of sun-glare that was often striking the faces of the dancers, as well as the shadows where the sun wasn't hitting at all. But I think I recovered most of the inadvertent over-exposure and under-exposure with some post-processing on the computer... I was also able to get some shots facing westward and southward, so that you could see the New Jersey skyline behind the dancers; indeed, there are a couple of shots with the Statue of Liberty and the Verrazano Bridge in the background. (Note to self: come back here at twilight, on a Sunday evening in mid-summer; it could well be even more spectacular.) Since I have no personal expertise (or even competence) at the dance, there's not much that I can say about what's going on; I have to let the pictures speak for themselves. Though it wasn't universally true, I noticed several occasions where the women were taller than their partners; I gather that that's an advantage when the dancers are twirling and twisting around. Also, I had the distinct impression -- just as was the case in Washington last summer -- that few (if any) of the dancers were "couples" in the traditional sense. Indeed, many of them seemed to be strangers who had met for the first time at this tango event, but who seemed to enjoy the experience of the dance together. And others, from what little I could tell, might have encountered one another at previous tango events -- but had no other interactions or relationship with one another. In any case, I had photographed everything I could imagine photographing by a little after 7 PM. I put away my camera equipment, walked a few blocks east to Hudson Street to enjoy a delicious dinner at a local restaurant with my wife, and made a note to check the Internet again for future tango events in Central Park and the South Street Seaport. If you'd like to pursue this on your own, check out Richard Lipkin's Guide to Argentine Tango in New York City.

I know its February (almost March) but remember it rains a lot in April and May. When Spring comes people start to spend more time outside and look for the same protection from the elements they expect all year.

Fosters-national-harbor-premium-eventFabric Structures provide a great solution to high winds, surprise snow, spring showers and heavy down pours. Its not bad to have a properly designed fabric structure up all year long too for hot summer and cold winters too!

But with all good things, its takes time to design, engineer, fabricate and install these structure. So start planning now.

Fordingbridge_Predesigned-Tensile-Fabric-Structures_Images_Kingshurst-SchoolJust want shade, go High Density Polythene (HDPE). Its a mesh fabric that gives you shade only protection but can also handle drizzle and light rain. Great for playgrounds, parking canopies

Looking for a cost effective solution to water protection?

Go with a vinyl coated polyester (PVC) fabric.

Toile tendue de auvent

Alfresco Architecture

Need a noncombustible fabric?

Go with teflon coated fiberglass (PTFE).

Looking for transparency instead of translucency?

Ask for clear fabric in PVC, PTFE or ETFE!

From umbrellas to dome stadium, awning to frame structure, retail to industrial, temporary to permanent, there is no other material that passes the test.

Make it sustainable.

zanzibarMake it Resilient.

Make it yours.

Make it a custom Fabric Structure.

The Fabric Structure of Tomorrow?

nys81Recently there has been a lot of press on the 50th anniversary of the World’s Fair in New York City and the Tent of Tomorrow.

Designed by Architect Philip Johnson, the structures debuted to the world on April 22, 1964 and quickly became among its most popular attractions.

5322884763_2918e3d37c_zTents of this size are now called “fabric structures” and radial design roofs are very common today mostly for sport stadium roofs.

As for the Future of the Tent of Tomorrow, there is much debate about what to do with it now.

The pavilion’s 16-100′ tall concrete columns (which are still in good shape)  supported a then “state of the art” 50,000 sqft foot translucent, multicolored fiberglass tile.

64-tent-tomorrowAs far as I know, there are two options on the table: $15 million to tear it down or $50-75 million to restore it to its original form.

Tearing it down will leave a space that many will fight over for years. Restoring it will create a tourist attraction in my opinion not worth visiting.

Here is a suggestion:

etfe_projects_earthbackWhy not build the Fabric Structure of Today.

The roof can made with solar panels that open an close and provide energy to the city. The walls made of ETFE can enclose a vertical farm that produces food. The structure can be designed to collect water which can be used for a number of things. Add a wind turbine too.

Who pays for it? We do. Who benefits? We do.

The Fabric Structure of Tomorrow should be a machine for Living, Teaching, Researching, Producing, Growing and Enjoying. Its more than just shade.

 

 

Inclement Weather

0134-Stuttgart-Otto“Inclement weather” basically means its going to be stormy, raining, snowing or windy. In most parts of the world, we experience changes of seasons and temperature. Around the Northeast, in January, there is a pretty good change we are going to get SNOW. Other places, it can be high winds or a lot of rain. We prepare ourselves for those events: snow blowers, salt and emergency “things”. Buildings and public places need to prepare themselves as well. Streets need to be cleaned, walkways need to be covered and outside building equipment needs to be maintained. If you are going to invest in any type of building or even a fabric structure, make sure its designed for “inclement weather”.

Stay safe and warm.

Porte Cochere de Fabric

Hyat render

How many French architectural terms do you know?

A porte-cochere also known as a “carriage porch” is the architectural term for a porch or portico-like structure at a main or secondary entrance to a building.

It is primarily function allows a horse and or motor vehicle to top under such a structure in order for the occupants to be dropped off or picked up  protected from the elements.

old hyatt pixThe porte-cochere was a feature of many late 18th and 19th-century homes and public buildings like Buckingham Palace and the White House.

Today, they are often constructed at the entrance to public buildings such as churches, hotels, health facilities, homes, and schools.

The porte-cochere has been made with a number of materials including fabric. This project in Princeton was originally made a skeleton frame and canvas.

New HyattThe new one for the Princeton Hyatt designed by BLT Architects out of Philadelphia and fabricated and installed by Fabritec Structures uses architectural exposed steel and Teflon coated fiberglass.

Its Shade, Signage and Shelter.

Now, how many French architectural terms do you know?

Back to Work

IMG_2228After a long holiday weekend, its back to work. The summer has been brutal so far this year in the United States.

Heavy rains in some areas and temperature close to 100 degrees on the East and West Coast.

Shade and shelter isn’t a luxury item, it’s a necessity. The Washington Metropolitan Transit Authority (WMATA) knows how to take care of its users. The pedestrian walkways at Vienna Metro Station are covered with fabric structures.

IMG_2238So whether you are coming off a bus or train or parked your car in the parking garage, these canopies keep you cool and dry.

It can’t help you getting there on time:)

Lightweight Architecture: What makes people want to go to a Tent Sale?

car_dealershipIts warming up in the Northeast (USA) so that means garden centers, outdoor restaurant seating and tent sales are opening up everywhere.

Tent Sale?

I went online to see if I could learn about the history of the “tent sale”. No such luck. Who came up with that idea? It seems like a couple of times a year stores, especially car dealerships, set up tents in their parking lots to sell more products, offer discounts and extend their selling space. The tents are erected to attract customer, cover products and people from inclement weather and they’re just fun.

But why only a couple of times a year?

Classic_HUMMER_Grapevine_Texas_300dpiIf you plan properly, you can design and build a lightweight fabric structure that provide shade, signage and shelter all year-long.

Shade is good.

Shade Structures protect people from harmful UV rays and keeps things cool.

Signage?

Everyone knows when the circus is in town. You can get a really cool fabric structure built that  everybody will remember or use as a meeting point or for directions.

Shelter?

Frosken1You can use a fabric structure for a variety of purposes. Use it for special events, employee lounge, clearance sales, outdoor eating, job fairs, fashion shows, demonstrations, the sky’ the limit.

Another Inconvienent Truth

article-2225557-15C4AFDA000005DC-914_964x641No, this is not a sequel to Al Gore’s documentary on global warming. It’s about the difficulties of traveling from one place to another. Travel has become a nightmare and its only getting worse.

The latest terrorist attacks and added security in transportation is making travel a difficult chore. There are many complaints but few viable solutions. Each city and place has experienced different kinds of congestions so there is not one universal solution.

However, there is hope. The beauty of building light or using lightweight structures is that one can test ideas and transform a space, place or concept very quickly. Its OK to fail but its OK  to succeed too!

MDT Typ S - 04Pedestrian traffic is tight. In cities, the sidewalks are not big enough any more. Stores are taking over the front. Newspaper stands and kiosk are taking over the sidewalk. Traffic poles, curb cuts and parking meters add to the clutter. Density is not all that bad.

How about closing some streets to vehicle traffic and giving the street back to the city walker? How about a street lined with public tables chairs and umbrellas. It’s already working in some cities. How about trying it more often and in more places?

859Auto traffic is at a stand still too. What city doesn’t experience rush hour traffic? Main Street roads are getting wider. Highways look like runways. They all seem to be designed for todays traffic with no plans for the future. It’s all not that bad, Ezpass and prepaid devices make life a little better but there will some day be no free rides with even more cars on the road. Another issue for all the traffic jams is the weather. Did you know that many traffic accidents are caused by sun glare, wind gust, hail and snow?

How about some shade structures (natural or artificial) installed over some prominent street for reducing traffic emergencies. How about fabric “visors” across highways that would reduce sun glare or extending tunnels with “vestibules” to reduce the amount of snow or water that clogs up an entrance.

selector12Train, Light rain and Bus traffic is suppose to reduce congestion and get people out of their cars. Have you been on a mass transit system recently? They are packed. They are adding cars so you have to walk a long distance to the exit of your choice. Bus stops are not big enough to handle rush hour lines and don’t protect people once they get off.

Imagine walking out of your home and into your car, then to a covered parking garage at a station in which you walk protected by the elements to your bus or train and then to your office without getting wet! That’s a commute!

Pink_Arch_05_sizedAir Traffic control or out of control? Flying has become the longest commute. Besides not having reasonably priced non stop airfare, there is the constant need for connections and the constant delays. The airplane experience has not improved since 9.11.

Imagine a trip like this: Getting to the airport, free valet parking, walking into the terminal with your ticket and luggage and walking thru a tunnel that consist of equipment that checks you better than the existing security service. You then walk straight into the plane and your luggage is taken and stored for you. No more Platinum members and elite status. Everyone is treated alike. I know…who pays for this.

Imagine. Smart Phones to Smart streets, to Smart roads, to Smart highways, to Smart rails to Smart terminals to Smart planes to Smart space.

It starts with Smart people and the Earth has plenty of them.

Egypt, ETFE and Electricity in Fabric Structures

FabricArchitect continues his look at Fabric Structures from A to Z.

The first thing that comes to mind when I think of the letter “E” and Fabric Structures is:

  • Egypt
  • ETFE
  • Electricity

Egypt

Obviously, its tragic what’s happening in Egypt.

Good and bad, these events put a spot light on a place few have been to or read about.

I know pyramids and camels come to mind but Egypt has some beautiful hotels, resorts and fabric structures. Here’s a fabric structure at the Marassi Beach Resort. Overlapping triangles and hypars. Not bad.

We all need shade to protect us from harmful UV rays.

What you can do in Egypt, you can do in your own backyard.

Just remember, design takes time, engineer it to code and choose finishes that are built to last.

ETFE

I’m sure you have already seen or heard about “The Nest” or the “Ice Cube” from watching the Summer Olympics in Beijing. This material is clear and its the HOT material on the market.

ETFE (ethylenetetrafluorethylene) is a polymer resin from the same family as PTFE. It is produced in very thin sheets and is manufactured to be installed in single layers or as inflated “pillows”, “cushions” or “foils”.

It is used an alternative to structural glass for long-span structures and, because of its light weight, is helps reduce the size of the primary structural system. Check out The Eden Project by Nicholas Grimshaw if you don’t believe me.

You gotta love ETFE!

ETFE foils are UV resistant, inert to chemicals, and 100-percent recyclable. Multiple layers of ETFE can provide an effective thermal enclosure. It can also be designed with unique patterns on the film, providing a range of light transmission.

Electricity

Can you install electric wiring in a fabric structure?

Yes.

The key is to get an electrician involved ASAP and work out the wiring ASAP too. Most fabric structures come as a kit of parts to site.

I hate welding on site because we spend so much time fabricating in the shop and providing a top of the line finish that having to weld and prime and paint just never looks as good as a shop finish.

Running wires requires coordination from the foundation, to the hand hole location for pulling main wires to providing stubs or openings for specific wiring and fixture connections.

Remember, there is no hiding in fabric structures. Everything is exposed. Plan early.

Next come the “F” words!

3D Fabric Architecture: Design, Development, Details

Today, The FabricArchitect looks at Fabric Structures and the letter D.  I could have mentioned the Denver Airport (that’s me on the right walking on the roof) or dealing with dirt but I thought I would focus on the fun part:

  • Design
  • Development
  • Details

Design

Designing fabric structures is fun if you understand structures and the basic forms. Each component is both visible and structural, and relies on all parts to function properly.

The first step in designing a fabric structure is to create a form with sufficient pre-stress or tension to prevent it from fluttering like a flag or sail.

How do you do that?

Understand the forms.

The three basic forms associated with tensioned fabric structures are the hypar (hyperbolic paraboloid), the cone, and the barrel vault.

The hypar, or simple saddle, is often a square or rectangular form in plan that in elevation is a series of high and low points in which the columns are located along the perimeter.

Mast- and Point-supported structures is where  internal columns are used to support the membrane  are cone or conical forms.

Arch- and Frame-supported structures, in which the membrane is supported by a rolled compression member are barrel vaults.

The second step of the design process is to determine the boundaries of the tensioned fabric. The fabric is either continuously clamped to frames, walls, or beams or attached to columns and anchor points with membrane plates with adjustable tensioning hardware.

Once the primary points have been determined, the next step is form-finding (you will learn more on form finding when we get to the “F’s”).

Today, Fabric Structures are primarily done on the computer using sophisticated softeware in combination with with programs like Autocad and SketchUP.

Designing fabric structure on the computer is only as good as the people working the computer. My favorites are Chris Griffin and Andrea Zamora at FabriTec. They got their drawing templates set up so you can take a basic sketch and get REAL revised plan and 3 d drawing rather quickly.

Don’t believe me?

Try them.

The last step in the design process is analysis of the structure’s response to loads, including dead loads and live loads such as snow, wind, people, and equipment. Sould have told you about “analysis” in chapter A but I will talk some more about when I get to “E”.

Development

It wasn’t that long ago when one use to hear about a “circus in town” .The circus was a traveling business. One would drive around the country and rent a space and set up a tent. You would charge admission and hopefully make more than what you paid for rent and then move on.  Today, these nomadic structures are much smaller and are part of short term villages as popup tents for flea markets, farmers markets and tail gate parties. Their are fewer moving large temporary structures around but one can still see them for Fashion Shows ans Special Events. The lost art of the Circus in Town is left to Big Apple Circus and Cirque du Soleil.

What’s the future?

Three quick suggestion to my Venture capitalist.

A Tent for Teens. Teens like to go to Malls to see and be seen but they have nothing to do. What if you leased a space in the parking lot of a mall and created a place for teens to go that isn’t a club or a movie and charge a fee. If you build light, they will come.

A Tent for Gamers. Traveling tournamet for Video Gamers in a unique tent. They will see the tent and know “the tournament is in town”. To enter the tournament, there is a fee. Have game? They will pay to play.

A Tent for Seniors. Wouldnt it be great if Seniors could find a place to meet and get some special treatments. Music, food and medical services could be made available by sponsors.

Got an idea for using a pre-engineered tent or custom fabric structure to make money? Let’s talk.

Details

All this design and development requires great details. Mies van der Rohe is acknowledge for saying “God is in the Details” and that can certainly be said about fabric structures. It’s just steel, fabric and cables but everything is exposed and working out the details is your key to success. We will talk about membrane plates in “M” but when it comes to details, start at the base. The base plates are the “feet” of your fabric structures. Moment or pin connected, they can be easily forgotten. If you are making pin connected bases, a beautiful pin will be a give a great impression. Anchor bolts at bases can be exposed , covered or below grade and covered. Its all part of the architecture.

You want to see some thing real cool?

Check out this link on details.

Its from the School of Architecture of Barcelona.

Lets talk about “E” next time.