Tag Archives: transit stations

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.

How Hard Can It Possibly Be?

IMG_3477There are 5.1 things that I learned over the past 12 months since I started my own business after 20 years working for a variety of companies.



1. “Its just steel, fabric and cables”. It seems that way but there is so much more. There is design, engineering, fabrication and installation. So much of it is behind the scenes. The client and the contractor and the user think its so easy but as they say, if it was so easy, everyone would be doing it. I learned that education and getting EVERYBODY to understand the process is critical. I found myself explaining the process over and over again. Education is key.

2. Running a business is not easy or fun. Forms, taxes, accounts receivables, accounts payables, dealing with subcontractors, vendors, suppliers, etc. When did they teach me this in Architecture School?! Found myself researching a lot of …for Dummies books to catch up. Thanks Amazon!

3. Friends are priceless. There were and are so many times when you need a friend. A friend to talk to about your business. A friend to contact in the middle of the night for a favor. A friend to ask if if they know someone who can save your day. A friend to cry with. A friend to laugh with. I have a lot of I.O.U’s to give out.

4. Have you ever heard of a thing called “Stress”? I learned that God is in control. There are so many things you think you got under control but you don’t. The weather is unpredictable and so are your clients, consultants and suppliers. I learned they all have lives outside of work  and the world does not revolve around me. Sorry and thanks in advance to all the people I have worked with over the past 12 months.

5. The Sun will come out tomorrow. There is a pretty good chance that the Sun will come out tomorrow. I’ve had good days. I ‘ve had bad days. Stress one day. Joy another. Money in. Money out. Late nights. All nighters. Weekends off. Vacation?! What’s that?

5.1 It’s good to have a Dog and a great family. They love you no matter what.

Fabric Structures and Airports

AMBI1894Most people think of the Denver Airport when it comes to fabric structures in the USA but you may be under a fabric structure in another airport and not even know it.

Fabric Structure do not always have to make a grand statement or be seen from miles away. The most common place to find them is at the departure and arrival areas at many Airports across the country. If you travel quite a bit, you might know that the picture above is from the San Diego Airport.

You get dropped off or picked up with out getting wet. You might be standing under one in the hot sun waiting for your shuttle to come by.

Its all included in making your travel experience enjoyable. No charge.

San Diego Int'l Airport ~ San Diego CA

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.

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?

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.

“C” and Learn more about Fabric Structures

FabricArchitect continues his series on the ABC’s of Fabric Structures.

When you “C” a structure like the one on the right that I worked on in New York City at South Street Seaport, you will know the difference between a tent and a fabric structure.

Todays words are:

  • Cables
  • Catenaries
  • Cutting Patterns
  • Cost


Most fabric structures have an “edge” which is made of a fabric pocket or “cuff” in which a cable is placed inside of it.

This cable is then connected to a membrane plate or directly to the structural steel component.

Cables are usually associated with permanent structures but can be used in temporary structures as well. The issue with cables is that they require an end fitting and can be quite bulky to store as opposed to kevlar rope and webbing belts which are more often used for tents and moveable canopies.

As for cables, they come in all shapes and sizes and strands. I like designing structures with edge spans less than 25′ feet in order to keep cables at a cost effective nice size (3/8″ to 5/8″) with small end fittings.

Otherwise, the price jumps fast when they get bigger and they are harder and heavier to move around. I also prefer stainless steel or coated galvanized over any other cable being offered.

I always say “pay now, pay later or have a plan”. Cables are the visual jewelry of a fabric structure. They will look bad if not taken care of or made of an inferior material.

As for end fitting, we can talk more when I get to “E”.

Want to get a sneak peak at  cables and end fittings?

Visit Ronstan, Jakob or Pfeifer.


I never used Catenaries in a sentence until I started designing fabric structures!

Good word to know.

Catenaries describes the scalloped edge shape of the boundary of a  fabric structures from one specific  end point or node. Fabric structures rarely have straight edges. They always have curved edges if they are only being held at two points.

An old friend of mine in the industry once told me that a typical catenary “scallop” is usually 10% of the distance between the two points. I use that as a rule of thumb before it goes into “form finding”. For example, if the distance between two points is 20 feet, the catenary “scallop” in plan will be about 2′. Try it at home.

Fabric Structure computer software allows one to get not only the forces but the cable lengths of those tricking catenaries.

Want to know more about fabric structure software?

Fabritec Structures has Marty Brown in their offices. He is the developer of NDN, the specialized Finite Element Method (FEM) modeling and analysis software that is used around the world by leading consultants and fabricators for the engineering, design and patterning of tensile membrane systems.

Cutting Patterns

I always like to use the analogy of a tailored suit to describe a fabric structure.

You have the body or the design to start with. You pick out the materials and the tailor measures, cuts the materials and fabricates a custom outfit.
fabric structures is done much the same way but all the work is done in 3D using fabric structure software.

However, one inputs material characteristics into the program because no two materials stretch alike.

The program and then unfolds the 3D image into 2D to determine what the structures will look “unstretched” and ultimately provide the fabricator with “cutting patterns”.

These patterns are made using a series of x, y coordinates that a CAD/CAM machine can read in order to cut the pattern from a sheet of fabric. Adjustments and modifcation to the cutting pattern report needs to be made before the membrane is cut to accomodate seams, overlaps, reinforcements and cuffs.

What do you need to know?

Ask to see the report.

You need to make sure they have input the correct material charateristics and thay you are aware and have apporved the seams orientation and the location of reinformcements and pockets.

See Tensys for more info on cutting patterns.


“How much does it cost any way?” That’s the number one question I get all the time.

Do a simple exercise.

Take the plan area of your space.

Multiply it by 1.5. This will give you an estimate of the surface area of your fabric structure and include a small amount of fabric that is wasted on the cutting room floor.

Take the surface area and multiply if by $100.

In 2011, that’s the range for designing, engineering, fabricating, and installing a fabric structure. The range does not include foundations and it does not take into consideration the material finished, the size of the overall project or the material chosen.

Surface Area X $100= Budget

It will tell you if you can afford a custom structure.

I got fabric structure ideas in all shapes and sizes and cost.

Contact me and lets “C” if I can help you.

Next in the series: Design, Details and Dirt.

Dilworth Plaza Glass Pavilions: Philly Fanatics will say Fabric

By going Fabric, TIGER money can be used more efficiently and Philly residents will thank you

A proposed $55 million Dilworth Plaza redesign is being planned for one of Philadelphia’s busiest transit stations at City Hall. The project, supported by Philly’s Center City District, received $15 million in funding from the federal Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) II grant program.

TIGER grants from the Department of Transportation are being awarded nationally to fund innovative transportation projects, spur economic development, and improve environmental benefits.

What isn’t covered by the grant is going to be paid by you know who.

The redesigned plaza and station are expected to improve commuter convenience and increase the station’s efficiency. The design includes two-20 foot tall glass pavilions which will feature artful lighting and allow natural light in to the concourse.

All sounds good. Who is going to pay for this?

Designed by Urban Engineers with Kieran Timberlake and landscape architects Olin, I would highly recommend that one look at the cost of these pavilions ASAP. There may already be an opportunity for early value engineering.

Value Engineering?


Transit projects all over the world all seem to come over budget. I would challenge someone to show me one that has been built under budget.

Who pays for the bill of these over runs?

For Dilworth Plaza, a good place to start to keeping an eye on its cost might be the iconic glass pavilions. Don’t be surprised if those glass pavilions come in at over $500 sqft.

By changing the glass pavilion to an innovative fabric structure, I believe you will be able to save some significant money which could be used in other areas that will spur economic growth and improve environmental benefits.

Fabric Structures are a cost effective alternative to glass structures at probably a third of the price . They will provide a perfect backdrop for artful lighting and provide diffused natural light into the concourse better than glass.

A combination of glass and fabric might even be the best way to satisfy both designers and fiscally conscious people.

The fabric structure can also be designed to collect water and divert it into the new underground cistern being considered.

Construction on the plaza is not expected to start until next summer, but construction documents are being prepared and the project is expected to open in late 2013.

If I can’t help Philly, maybe your transit station could benefit from a fabric structure.