Tag Archives: performance centers

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!


Here comes the sun

“Here Comes The Sun”- The Beatles

MDT Typ E - 75Here comes the sun, here comes the sun
And I say it’s all right

Little darling, it’s been a long cold lonely winter
Little darling, it feels like years since it’s been here

Here comes the sun, here comes the sun
And I say it’s all right

NH imageLittle darling, the smiles returning to the faces
Little darling, it seems like years since it’s been here

Here comes the sun, here comes the sun
And I say it’s all right

Sun, sun, sun, here it comes
Sun, sun, sun, here it comes
Sun, sun, sun, here it comes
Sun, sun, sun, here it comes
Sun, sun, sun, here it comes

Shadesail-Soltis-92-5Little darling, I feel that ice is slowly melting
Little darling, it seems like years since it’s been clear

Here comes the sun, here comes the sun
And I say it’s all right
Here comes the sun, here comes the sun
It’s all right, it’s all right

Lansdale concert in the parkIts here. Spring. Summer. Outdoor events.

Check your old stuff, plan for new stuff. custom or stock.


50 Shades of Fabric Structures

The FabricArchitect is now on the letter “S” which means its time to talk about Shade. Here are 50 ideas for using Shade Structures:

1. Playgrounds

2. Outdoor Dining.

3. Basketball courts.

4. Walkway.

5. Airports.

6. Sports Stadium Roofs.

7. Entries.

8. Covered Parking.

9. Swimming pools.

10. Retail.

11. Military.

12. Resorts.

13. Transportation.

14. Interiors.

15. Museum.

16. Aquariums.

17. Zoos.

18. Boats.

19. Crusies

20. Equestrian.

21. Agricultural.

22. Water Treatment.

23. Casinos.

24. Music.

25. Schools.

26. Disaster Relief.

27. Theme Parks.

28. Ferry Terminals.

29. Bridges.

30. Church.

31. Courtyards.

32. Special Events.

33. Parks.

34. Facades.

35. Homes.

36. Art.

37. Gas Station.

38. Hospital.

39. Library.

40. Tents.

41. Trade Shows.

42. Colleges.

43. Movies.

44. Ice Rink.

45.  Shopping Mall.

46. Beach.

47.  Snow.

48.  Transit Stations.

49. Tennis.

50. Exhibition.

Did I miss anyone?

The ABC’s of Fabric Structures returns: The Letter J

by Sam Armijos

Two kids, a dog, 7 days a week of sports and preaching and promoting fabric structures all over the place can keep you pretty busy and away from writing but I’m back. I was stuck on the letter “J” because all I could think about was the name of my first born (“Jay #13”) and he was born when I was working on the Uni-Dome in Waterloo, Iowa in 1998.

When it comes to fabric structures and the letter “J”, the following comes to mind:

  • Jacking
  • Jacksonville
  • Jakob


“Jacking” is a term used for raising the mast or columns of a structure using hydraulic jacks. I recall a “sandpit” detail used at both Jacksonville, FL and at Fabritec’s Nautica Amphitheater  (now the Jacobs Pavilion) in Cleveland to raise the mast to tension the membrane from the ground instead of up in the air.

You basically raise the mast that is sitting in a large sand pit and add sand or shims to it to keep it level. Pretty simple and it works too! Gotta find that detail. Maybe you have seen it?

Jacksonville (Amphitheater)

Jacksonville Amphitheater also known as Metropolitan Park is one of the first permanent fabric structures built in the US for musical performances. Designed by my friends at FTL who I once worked for, the structure was the first of its kind on the waterfront and was followed by the likes of Pier Six Music Pavilion in Baltimore, Bank of America Pavilion in Boston and Ntelos in Portsmouth, VA, just to name a few. That structure is at least 25 years old and could probably use a recover by now but it still rocks.


Stainless steel cables and hardware always come to mind when discussing fabric structures and I always seem to see Jakob, a swiss maker of cables and fittings at trade shows. The do handrails, green screens, wire meshes, you name it. Nice stuff. You can find these types of cables and hardware from the likes of Ronstan and Pfeifer too.

Next week, we talk “K”.

Fabric Architect Looks at Bandshells, Birdair and Biaxial Testing

Series continues on Fabric Structures: A to Z

Today I’m going to comment on the B’s (That’s me on the right in Bangkok)

  • Bandshell
  • Birdair
  • Biaxial Testing


bandshell is a large, outdoor performing venue typically used by bands and orchestras. The roof and the back of “the shell” protect musicians from the weather and reflect sound through the open side and out towards the audience.

They can be made of concrete, wood and just about anything but my favorite is fabric (of course). Fabric Structure bandshells can be temporary or permanent and come in all shapes and sizes. They can even be designed to work indoor.

Personally, I like the temporary bandshell from Anchor Industries and Tentnology. Both good buddies of mine. If you need to go permanent, I like to bring along FTL Design Engineering Studio with me (FYI: I use to work there myself). They have a lot experience with these kind of structures.


It’s hard to talk about Birdair because they are my biggest competitor but my role  is to promote the industry and encourage more use of fabric structures worldwide. Birdair is the most recognized name  associated with large-scale fabric structures. The have been involved in the many of the large-scale structures built for Olympics, World Cups and a number of sports stadiums. They have recently made news because they were the roof manufacturers of the Metrodome in Minneapolis and Skyline Stage at Navy Pier in Chicago which both collapsed  during a2010 winter storm in the midwest.

They are big users of Sheerfill teflon coated fiberglass from Saint Gobain and they now push a product call tensotherm which is a roofing material which has some thermal properties.

Birdair is located in Upstate New York but is owned by the Japanese company Taiyo Kogyo. They advertise heavily in Architectural Record in order to be “first in mind” with Architects but there is no such thing as “birdair structures”. The company which started in 1957  under the direction of Walter Bird and rose to prominence in the 1980’s with projects like the Haj Terminal is a skeleton of itself with many of the designers, engineers and employees now retired or gone elsewhere to work.

“Companies don’t build projects, people do”. Be comfortable with the people you want to work with before you proceed to build a fabric structure.

Biaxial Testing

No two fabrics are alike. They stretch differently and subsequently require what is called a biaxial test. A Biaxial test stretches a membrane in both the warp and fill direction to determine the elongation behavior under certain loads.

How much do you need to know?

As an owner or designer of a small-scale structure, you should at least ask to make sure one has been done if not on your specific fabric but on a sample of the material you have purchased. On bigger projects (i.e. stadiums), a biaxial should be done and recorded. Anything to do with fabric, testing and performance, I always go to Tensys. They are the best.

With all this talk about fabric testing, competitors and bandshells, it make me want to help someone get something built.

Next I will comment on cables, catenaries, cutting patterns and COST.

Fabric Architect Class begins Today: A to Z

Learn and understand the basics of Fabric Structures.

I thought I would start 2011 by taking a step back and giving you the things you need to know about Fabric Structures from A to Z.

Today, I am going to start with the letter A.

  • Awnings
  • Anchors
  • Amphitheaters


Awnings are lightweight fabric structures made of  acrylic, cotton or polyester, just to name a few. It is stretched over a frame made of wood, steel or aluminum. Most awning forms are made in traditional architectural shapes such as a simple gable, shed or barrel vault. However they can come in all shapes and sizes too. Awnings are still made the old fashion way by sewing panels of material together but they are also “RF welded” together or “stapled” on a frame. Personally, I like the “steelstitch” or staple system awning systems. Its clean, attractive and cost effective.

Today, in addition to providing protection from the elements and reducing direct solar heat gain on a building, awnings are mini billboards and branding opportunities for any one who choses to take advantage of this product. They can increase the amount of your living, working and selling  space and can transform your space and give it new life.

Extend your entrance, Expand your dining area, create shelter for your employees or patrons. Doing more with less.

Want to be sustainable?

Ask for Sustainable materials or go retractable (Open and close and you wish).


Fabric Structures are anchored in a number of ways: Either with a concrete footing or to a structural steel plate attached to a building. When you are designing a custom fabric structure, it is common to have reactions or loads provided by the Engineer or fabricator in order to properly size and build the anchors. Some loads on fabric structures are in tension only and that allows one to consider another type of foundation or anchor.  That type of anchor comes in the form of “earth” anchors. In simple terms, that’s using the earth to support your fabric structure. You can put stakes in the ground like tent companies do for easy removal and temporary structures, but for larger and more custom applications, earth anchors can be cost effective and sustainable.

The anchors are driven with conventional hydraulic equipment similar to what you might see a Utility company use for installing communication lines. Once driven to the proper depth, the rod/tendon attached to the anchor is pulled to rotate the anchor into undisturbed soil – like a toggle bolt. The anchor is pulled upon to reach the holding capacity required and has very little impact on the existing soil. My preference? Manta Rays.

Another type is an” helical auger stake” which I see more for small and medium size structures. They work much like a wine cork opener in which you screw a plate and rod into the ground and do the same test for holding capacity. What’s nice about these is that they have minimal soil disturbance. I like the augers from A.B. Chance.


All this talk about Awnings and Anchors makes me want to design!

An amphitheatre or amphitheater is an open-air venue used for entertainment and performances. Modern amphitheatres feature a theatrical style stage with the audience only on one side, usually at an arc of less than a semicircle. They are typically man-made, though there are also  natural amphitheatres using the existing slope of the land. Open air venues are nice but there is increasing need to have these performance facilities covered.


1. The Show must go on and a little rain or too much sun shouldn’t cancel an event. Fabric Structures can cover the performers, the audience or both. Most major city’s have incorporated a covered amphitheater as part of their city scape. Don’ Believe me? See Boston, Chicago, Baltimore, Miami, Charlottesville. Need more proof? I got more.

2. Skin Cancer. Too much sun can be bad for both performer and audience. Skin cancer is the fastest growing cancer in the nation. Research indicates that most people receive as much as 80 percent of their total lifetime sun exposure during their first 18 years. One severe sunburn during childhood may double the risk of developing melanoma, one of the deadliest forms of cancer, later in life. Being exposed to the sun for a 1-3 hour event could be quite dangerous.

3. Acoustics.  Covered or uncovered, there are so many forms of entertainers and they all have different needs. Some use amplified sounds, others use none at all. The design of a covered amphitheater needs to be able to adapt to a number of different sounds. If you are looking at covering an amphitheater, make sure you bring on an acoustical consultants with you. I like JaffeHolden.

Ampthitheaters, like all fabric structures, come in all shapes and sizes AND Costs. Don’t think you can’t afford one until you do your research. You may only need a bandshell (I’ll tell you more about them when we get to the B’s).

Got an idea for your town to build new or transform an existing amphitheater?

Let’s do it.

10 Fabric Architecture Trends for 2011

1. Fabric Structure Brands will become essential:

There will be a need to buy from a company with Experience. Too many “fly by night” fabricators will continue to show up out from no where. Consumers are too smart.

2. Consumers will challenge the Industry:

Consumers will challenge the industry with never before heard of ideas for fabric structures. You can Follow, Lead, Adapt  or be left behind.

3. Price will continue to be King:

Yes. It’s good to be the King but relationship and comfort are a close second. You want to feel comfortable with the person or company you are working with. Ask for a discount and look out for a discount if you purchase material in advance.

4. Made in the USA:

We , in the USA, always find our clothes and products are being made overseas. Because of the declining dollar, there will be a trend to see more things like fabric structures being made in the USA.

5. Wear the brand proudly:

Coffee cups, pens and USB sticks will be replaced with shirts, hats and other clothing as gift and promotional items. We will all be walking billboards of our building products. I want a FabricArchitect T-shirt!

6. Healthy products and Services will be desirable:

Healthy products and services will expand beyond food and drink and personal trainers. Look for fabric structures which provide health benefits and reduce your spending.

7. Social Media will be your best advisor and critic:

You can Google people and companies but Social Media will give you up to the minute stats on structures, places and things and the good, the bad and the ugly.

8. Give, Donate, Dedicate will outperform Self-Promotion:

Iconic structures will not be the main reason for investing in a fabric structure. It will be to give people shade without them asking, donate a simple structure to your alma mater as a thank you, dedicate an entry canopy or a walkway cover without the desire to cut a ribbon.

9. Spontaneity requires shade.

We live in a fast paced society with special events going on a round the world from concerts to meetings to overnight festivals. We also built so fast during the last ten years we forgot to provide added protection. Protection from the elements will be a need not a want.  Look for temporary to permanent buildings, exterior shading devices on the outside and unique shading devices on the inside.

10. The color of Fabric Structures?:

Fabric Structures have gone from white (the color) to green (recycle, reduce, reuse) to blue (produce energy, provide benefits, perform).

The sky’s the limit.

Pelli’s Winter Garden Redo: Don’t forget the Fabric Structure

There is a  plan to re-design the Cesar Pelli–designed World Financial Center Winter Garden in NYC and remove the hall’s grand marble staircase, sparking a debate between city planners and owner Brookfield Properties over the new design’s appropriateness.

The original design included 40 steps that serves as amphitheater seating for concerts and events held in the palm tree–planted glass court.

The new design, replaces the east entrance with a two-story glass box into which commuters would arrive from an underground connector to the PATH and subway stations, now under construction at the World Trade Center. The plan also adds a two-story market and 700-seat food court to the south side of the Winter Garden.

On the west side, Brookfield has suggested that a temporary stage and seating system would replace the garden’s amphitheater setup during events.

I, for one, applaud that suggestion but don’t forget to include the Fabric Structure.

If you’ve ever been to an event there, the place is spectacular.

The part I like the most?

The temporary fabric structure installed in front of the large glass wall.

Done while I was working at FTL Design and Engineering Studio in the 1980’s, its a two piece structure. One piece is used to reduce the amount of direct glare on the space while the other is a bandshell used to improve the acoustics in the space.


Fabric Structures can be used to improve the acoustic qualities of a space?

Yes. Just ask.

The Architect’s Newspaper.