Use of fabric in Construction and Architecture

Most of us have once or twice spent a night inside a tent while camping which made us feel really close to nature as we were separated by nothing but a piece of cloth, yet kept us safe and secure. Even during the stone ages, people have used skin and textile to make up dwelling units and it has proved its endurance abilities since a long time ago. They are not just easy to become mobile, but also light weight and provide protection against UV rays and rain. A lot of modern construction uses the developed form of nothing but simple tents and turned them by design into much more than temporary structures.

A major amount of engineering understanding is however needed to take care of all structural factors to make it work like the wind loads, weathering patterns, etc. Nowadays, there are special fabrics which are durable enough to span longer areas and Computer technology is also used to get the right factors added to them.

A façade made completely with textile was installed onto the Swiss pavilion at the Shanghai expo in 2010. The structure was supported by wire strands which were galvanized and had a four millimetres diameter. This was done on a 15 m high façade and fitted later with 11000 cells which generated solar electricity. Similar net were used in the aviary of Loro Parque in Tenerife. The steel net can be manufactured to any required length without any compromise on the strength.


A 20 metre by 40 metre structure called Tubaloon was designed by Snohetta and is a pneumatic membrane sculpture put up in the Kongsberg Jazz festival in Norway. A stretched membrane added to pneumatic design is special in the case of this structure. The parts of the building which support it are located inside just like a skeleton. The organic look like a human body is attached by this technique.

A Venezuelan pavilion in the Expo 2000 in Hanover was made by a PVC coated polyester membrane. The structure was a temporary and mobile structure designed by Fruto Vivas and needed 50 containers for shipping. The next location was found after 6 years and in the time being it was stored in 80 degree Celsius heat of Venezuela and the members did not show substantial damage and were reused. The reason for antiadhesive properties of PVC PES membranes is a protective film which in turn helps the membrane stay clean and also easy to maintain. If the climate supports it, the demand and application of such structures can make their life last to about twenty years. Its flexibility allows it to be used in peculiar roofing and facades.

The uses of such fabrics in the future and opportunities are tremendous and newer technology is pushing its boundaries every year.