Tag Archives: sport stadiums

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!


Do you really NEED a fabric structure?

IMG_3477Not really.

To Live, you NEED water, food and shelter.

Everything else is a WANT.

Well, do you really WANT a Fabric Structure?

It all depends.

If you are looking for a lightweight structure that provides protection from the Elements and happens to also improve the aesthetics of your place or space, then you WANT a fabric structure.

World Cup Shade

Roof shadeYou see it with the stadium roofs. The need to shade spectators and players. Found some interesting other areas that were shaded during the World Cup I thought I would share. Enjoy the rest of the Cup and keep cool.

world-cup-decoration 6282192-large capture_20140613_145834 dbd69b890f4642c9b54627550752acdd-ac7e3ec7c4784483ad4c53f390202d47-1 A boy rides his bicycle along Third Street of the Alvorada neighbourhood which is decorated for the 2014 World Cup in Manaus

The Next BIG Thing.

420aI’ve been checking out the latest Architecture and Construction magazines  and reading all the Google Alerts pertaining to buildings and spaces and I am wondering what the next big thing is in our industry.

The Star Architects are doing pretty much the same thing while many Architects out there are pushing the envelope with  “net zero” and “sustainable” concepts.

Special Event structures for the World’s Fair, Olympics and Sports Championships are all watching the bottom line while the unstable world economy is keeping every developer from really making some noise.

So what do you think will be the next BIG thing?

Here are my top five big things:

1. Someone unveils a way to reduce or eliminate the mobile phone bill.

Free mobile.

2. Someone unveils a way to reduce or eliminate their utility bill.

Plug and play Net Zero.

3. Someone unveils a way to reduce or eliminate their gas bill.

No car, no problem. Yes car, no problem.

4. Someone unveils a new business or industry based on a new use or need for Architectural Fabrics.

DIY Fabric Structures.

5. Someone unveils a new fabric or film which takes over the the construction industry.

Bubble Structures. Create, Use, Pop.

What’s your idea?

Meet you at the Fabric Structure

Sea Lion Sound St Louis ZooCan you find the fabric structure in this picture?
Of course you can.
Its white.
Its stands out.
It makes you smile.

Fabric Structures come in all shapes and sizes and one thing it does do, is make you look.

Maybe because it reminds you of a circus tent or party tent you were once in.

Or maybe because it doesn’t look like everything else.

Or maybe its hot or raining and you need some shelter.

Meet me under the fabric structure.

Why Fabric?

What is. A place is too hot for children, parents…everybody. You can put sunblock on but the playground is hot, the bleachers are hot, even your car is hot when you get back in it.

Warnick DaycareWhat could be. A place that is shaded and protecting people from harmful UV rays. A shade structure over a playground that shades both children and parents. A sports field with covered bleachers. Your car in a cover parking spot.

What is. Playing in a space with artificial lighting because the roof is made of a material which does not allow natural daylight.

FF.Tennis ETFEWhat could be. Playing in a space with a roof made of a transucent membrane that allows natural daylight and eliminates the need for high utility bills. A roof that reflects the heat.

What is. A blank wall surface that lacks architecture yet its face offers so much potential.

TF.Textile Facade ExampleWhat could be. Imagine a bland parking garage transformed into an aesthetically pleasing textile facade. Image the side of your building which is exposed to so many people is all of a sudden a billboard for advertising or branding your company.

What is. A special event is cancelled due to the weather. The band is protected by the audience isn’t. How many rain outs can you afford.

DSC_0076_edited-1What could be. A structure that says “Come and Visit” and the show must go on. Seating in shade at a premium price. Rescheduling is minimized.

What is. A trend is now a requirement. To be “sustainable”, one must look at recyclable materials, designed to reduce the carbon footprint and reduce the amount of energy required to have human comfort.

Rosa Parks Transit CenterWhat could be. Fabric Structures as exterior shading devices. Fabric Structures using materials that are recyclable or have little impact in our landfills. Fabric Structures which do not take much energy to manufacture or install. Fabric Structures that not only provide shade but collect water too.

Why not Fabric?

Fabric Structure V’s

We are getting down to the last few letters and The FabricArchitect still has words to use. When it comes to the letter “V”, the words that come to mind are:

  • Valley Cable
  • Verseidag Fabric
  • Velodrome

Valley Cables

Valley cables are pretty self explanatory but often misunderstood, poorly detailed or installed incorrectly. These cables are used to “keep down” the membrane from uplift forces on a structure.

Usually associated with “folded plate” style forms, they are normally constructed with a coated “jacket” on them because they are sitting on top of the membrane. They are sometime covered yet again after they are installed or left exposed to the elements. The end fittings require them to have some adjustment to them otherwise they have a tendency to flutter if not properly tensioned.

Verseidag Fabric

Verseidag is a manufacturer of membrane material located in Germany. They are one of the few companies worldwide that offer both PTFE and PVC fabrics. Duraskin is the brand name they go by for architectural membranes.


One of the more interesting and growing sports is the sport of bicycle or track racing. A Velodrome is an arena for Track racing.

Velodromes may be indoors or outdoors. Indoor tracks are not affected by weather and are more comfortable for spectators (i.e. see London 2012 Olympics). They ride smoother and last longer.

Despite the advantages of indoor tracks, outdoor velodromes are more common. However, there is more interest and fabric seems the be the material of choice for these venues.

“W” is next.

Temporary Fabric Structures is the New Permanent

Unless you were hiding under a rock this past month, The Olympics in London showcased great examples of the future of Architecture, Special Event Planning and Olympic Design and what you can do with the letter “T”:

Temporary Structures
Architecture is going Temporary. It’s cost effective, it’s now and it’s wow. The London Olympic stadium is “relocatable”!? That’s right. Today, you can design, build, take down and reuse a stadium. That’s sustainable!

We’re not talking about your typical “tent” any more. The present and future of tents combines lightweight structures with durable fabrics to make “tent cities” hospitality suites, sport venues, the sky’s the limit. It doesn’t have to be this organic structure with high tensile loads. It just has to be beautiful and useful.

The wire rope cable is a common component of the New Architecture. Curtain walls, handrails and roofs, etc. High wire acts of London can be seen at the Eye, at the O2, at the roof and facade of the stadium, at the Emirates cable cars crossing the Docklands. Some times Tension is a good thing.

I’m heading to London to see it first hand. I read somewhere that in preparing for their Olympic presentation, the London Olympic committee was not looking to create another iconic building. “There is plenty of history of forms of architecture to see there already”.

Fabric Structures provide a permanent experience of a temporary moment.

Experience Fabric Architecture.

See “U” later.

Fabric Structures: Q&A

The FabricArchitect continues to go thru the alphabet of Fabric Structures and today looks at the the letter “Q”.

I thought finding words starting with the letter Q was going to be hard but the words came pretty quick:

Queensland (Australia)

Queensland (Australia)

If you want to see alot of fabric structures, head over to Australia, particularly Queensland which is the northeastern part of that beautiful country. I was in Brisbaine in 2000 visting SSP (Shade Structures Pacific) and just loved to see that fabric is well received as a building material and that there were many uses for it. Hotel entries, outdoor dining, walkways, interiors, etc. I dont know if there is a law or requirement in that country but I found them everywhere. I applaud the design community for getting them built in so many places. Architects love to quote “Learning from Las Vegas”. People interested in Fabric Structures should “Learn from Australia”.


Small scale fabric structures include umbrellas, barrel vaults and canopies built to code and built to last. One common design in the marketplace is a single post “hypar”.

Birdair calls theirs “Quasar”. FabriTec calls theirs the “Aurora” but it is the closest thing to custom at a standard cost. The structure has a nautical feel to it with stainless steel exposed cables and a canopy cover that is quite eye catching. These structures come as small as 12′ and I’ve seen them as big as 30′. If you want to do something beyond your standard umbrella, this is the way to go.


Most people don’t even know where Qatar is but if you follow soccer, you know Qatar is adjacent to Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the Persian Gulf and will be the host of the 2022 FIFA World Cup. Alot of new stadiums are being planned there and as you can imagine, they all need shade which means look to see a variety of new fabric structures in the Middle East.

“R” comes next.

3G’s for Fabric Structures

FabricArchitect is going way back to “old school” with the letter “G”:

  • Geiger
  • Green Fabric Structures
  • Gas Stations


When I was studying fabric structures in College (I went to NJIT for undergrad and Rensselaer for Graduate work), one of the main pioneers in the field was David Geiger. David Geiger was an engineer who invented the air-supported fabric roof system used for almost half the domed stadiums in the world. He unfortunately died young at the age of 54. Dr. Geiger received more than a dozen patents for long-span roof systems. His air-supported system cover the Metrodome in Minneapolis and he Silverdome in Pontiac, Michigan and he was part of the Geiger Berger team that introduced fabric structures to America. He also founded Geiger Engineers which is still around today. He also invented a cabledome roof system that is used at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, FL.

Green Fabric Structures

“Green” can mean so many things but when it comes to fabric structures, it means being sustainable.

Sustainable design (also referred to as “green design” or “eco-design”) is the art of designing physical objects to comply with the principles of economic, social and ecological sustainability. The essential aim of sustainable design is to produce places, products and services in a way that reduces use of non-renewable resources, minimizes environmental impact, and relates people to the natural environment.

I know you have heard that before.

My experience?

Everyone has different viewpoints: Owner, client, Architect/designer, Consultant, Contractor on sustainable design.

My answer?

Green Fabric Structures can be more expensive but provide benefits beyond providing basic shade, signage and shelter. The provide unique Design, Materials and Construction benefits.

Design benefits include:

  • Day lighting (reduce the need for artificial lighting)
  • UV protection (reduce the risk of skin cancer)
  • Water collection (water used for irrigating plants, etc.)
  • Solar shading (reduce energy on building’s mechanical system)
  • Education (structures that teach people about UV protection, recyclability, etc.)

Material and Fabrication benefits include:

  • Longer lasting materials (Silicone, Tenara, PTFE, ETFE, PVC)
  • Recyclable materials (recyclable PVC and polyofin)
  • Energy it takes to create materials is low compared to other materials.
  • Energy it takes to fabricate membrane compared to other materials.

Construction and Installation benefits include:

  • Less and Lighter is more. More structure on fewer trucks. Lighter equipment needed to erect.
  • Less impact on the ground (smaller concrete foundations, utility tension cable anchors)
  • Shipping cost. Light load.
  • Retrofit or reuse of the site. “Remove and reuse”

Need more info?


Gas Stations

All this talk about design and sustainability makes me think of the need for alternative energy and “charging stations” for our new devices.

The filling station, also known as a gas station, petrol  station or service station, has been selling fuel for motor vehicles since 1888.

OK, What does this have to do with fabric structures?

Not sure when the first gas station canopy was created but it is now very common to see them used for branding and signage. It would seem ideal to use a fabric structure over the fuel pumps but there are few examples.

Try one on for size.

See you next time at the letter H.