Tag Archives: Sports Complex

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!


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 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.

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


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.


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.


Can you install electric wiring in a fabric structure?


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!

5 New Small Building Ideas for Architects

Here’s 5  new small building ideas Architects, Designers and Developers can use in 2011.

One. “Show your sustainability”

Go alfresco if you’re designing a restaurant or an outdoor classroom incorporating it with a large shade structure would be a great way to show people how sustainable you are.

Two. “Park it  right here”.

Some ideas for designers and developers would be to incorporate a shade structure over parking lots to reduce the heat island effect also to provide an area for added revenue. Pay for shade or shelter.

Three. Human comfort?

No matter where you happen to be, human comfort is key. Take for example watching a local sporting event. No luxury boxes or suites. A Great opportunity for many local school clubs, public and private schools would be to incorporate a fabric structure over pre-engineered metal bleacher system or at your sports complex. The seating canopy can be sponsored or donated and could become a main feature of your facility.

Four.  “Transit Stop Here”.

How many people can fit in your a bus shelter booths?

I recently stopped by a New Jersey Transit bus stop in Wayne, New Jersey and noticed these pre-engineered bus stop shelter booths that are typically seen around the country. They never seem big enough to handle the capacity of riders and are sometimes lost when they are blocked by SUV’s and Trucks. I propose a larger structure be placed over them to incorporate overflow and provide a visual icon as a means for signage and way finding.

Five: Go inside and play

All this talk about building made me think of the  inside too. Renovation are certainly needed around the country. Have you noticed how many commercial building are for sale or rent. Dormant buildings need new life and a building’s function will need to change as well. Take a spec building and turn it into some thing else with fabric. Soft walls and “rooms within a room” can save both time and money.

Advice to Architects, Developers and Building owners?

Lets keep dreaming of new and exciting ways to build,  rebuild and celebrate life.

Metrodome Collapse: The end of an era in Fabric Structures?

We are living in interesting fabric structure times.

An air-supported structure like the Metrodome which recently collapsed is a structure that uses air to support itself.

The air is generated by electrical or gas powered systems and as utility prices have risen, so has the cost of operating these kinds of buildings.

However, they are still inexpensive to build in comparison to buildings requiring major structural systems.

Among its many uses beyond sports and recreation facilities, air structures are used for warehousing, and temporary shelters.

They are fun structures to be in.

The collapse of the Metrodome might raise new questions about the future of this stadium, a new stadiums or who is going to pay for this but don’t let mother nature end your want or need of air supporterd structures.

They are safe and cost effective structueres and have their place in Architecture and Construction.



Covering Sports with Fabric Structures

by Sam Armijos

It seems that there is never a loss for sports coverage; new players being signed, stadiums being built, games being played, stats, scores and standings.

From professional sports to neighborhood clubs, there is plenty going on in the world of sports.

Sports revolves around two essential elements: the players and the spectators. The players have rules and regulations to abide to while the spectator is there to be entertained and to root for the players on the field.

For players to perform at their best, they need to have the best facility by which to play from. For the spectator to enjoy their experience, they need to be made comfortable.

Pretty simple, right?

Many sports, in particular soccer, play special attention to the design of their facilities for not only the players but the spectators.

For example, Shade.

FIFA or the International Federation of Association Football has a number of rules and regulations regarding the design of stadiums. Approved stadiums are required to provide shade not only for the players but for the spectators.

The best solution?

Fabric Structures, of course.

Look around.

All the major soccer stadiums around the world are getting it.

They are using shade structures to cover their seating areas and these structures are also providing shade on the field.

Fabric Structures are not only for the big stadiums.

NCAA, minor leagues sports, club teams and public and private schools need to start looking at shading their sports facilities.

Besides protecting spectators from harmful UV rays, they transform new and existing facilities like no other material.

These things pay for themselves in providing potential corporate or alumni sponsorships and “if you build it, they will come.”

How much is this going to cost?

To design, engineer and fabricate a fabric structures for a sports facility, its fair to say its in the range of $100 square foot but that’s a budget.

The true cost comes in looking at your design, your location, the size of your project and most importantly, your budget.

Let’s talk sports then lets build something together.