Textile architecture

The future of construction
huge ETFE roof supported by a steel cable mesh

Fabric architecture was pioneered approximately 40 years ago by Prof. Frei Otto and has since become a popular and established method of construction. Fabric tensile structures are distinguished by their elegance and airiness, which result in outstanding designs.

Tensile, fabric canopies are by no means only suitable for temporary structures. They are fully fledged constructions that are able to withstand all adverse weather conditions such as wind and snow. The double-curved organic form is not just functionally necessary, it also gives fabric structures their unique appearance.

Organic forms are in vogue – tensile fabric structures are distinguished by their floating forms, but these are not randomly configured by the architect; they adhere to natural principles that result in elegant, flowing contours.

In recent years a great deal of research has gone into building techniques for fabric structures and comprehensive software is now available for reliably determining both the form and the structural properties. Fabric architecture has been embraced by the industry and as a result, numerous textile manufacturers now offer a wide range of materials that can be selected according to specific requirements. The lifespan of these materials is usually around 25 to 35 years.

Fabric architecture lends itself both to exterior surfaces and interior structures. From very small structures to stadium roofs, the scope of tensile fabric architecture is extremely broad.

Fabric architecture is a very particular style of architecture, in which form, structure and detail are closely intertwined. The desire for architectural authenticity is almost automatically fulfilled – the supporting framework defines the structure’s overall appearance, details have both a structural and aesthetic function. 3dtex GmbH specialises in the design and realisation of such entities encompassing structure, design and functionality.

The words ‘lightweight’ and ‘elegant’ are often used in connection with tensile fabric structures. Yet these attributes are not intrinsic, they have to be painstakingly worked on: choosing the right form, the arrangement of details and the building quality are extremely important in this regard.

Besides their creative scope, fabric structures often have cost advantages, e.g. as a result of the high level of prefabrication, short construction times and efficient supporting framework configuration.
The amount of energy and raw materials needed for the erection of tensile fabric structures is minimal – making them particularly environmentally friendly. The membranes that are used are usually recyclable.