Fabric architecture has grown in popularity in recent years, helping to create some of the most iconic and beautiful venues in the world. A wide range of fabrics are used in fabric architecture, both for indoor and outdoor structures. While some designers and architects know exactly which fabrics they wish to use for their project, others will want advice and guidance on the best materials to use.
Coated fabrics for external use
For fabric architecture which is to be situated outdoors, there are two main choices of material – polyvinyl chloride (PVC) or polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE). As both of these are coated, they repel dirt and water as well as being flame retardant, making them ideal for external use and giving the structures they form a much longer lifespan.
PVC has a coating containing additives which make it anti-fungicidal and UV resistant. Thanks to various protective PVDF lacquers, PVC membranes are also easy to clean, and this can help prolong their lifespan for up to twenty years. Tensile fabric canopies constructed from PVC can be extremely flexible, with warp and weft threads kept under tension through the preconstraint method.
Canopies made from PTFE can last up to thirty years, and because the components which make them are inert, they are the ideal choice for permanent structures which need to stand for at least fifteen years. New PTFE is a buff colour which will bleach to white within the space of a few weeks, while any weld discolouration will also fade within a similar period of time.
Mesh fabrics for internal use
Three fabrics are commonly used for internal structures, the most economical of which is cotton. Manufacturers such as http://signaturestructures.com/ tend to use cotton for short term structures or where a softer texture is required, as cotton has a tendency to shrink. A pop-up cotton tensile structure took centre stage at the 2012 Marrakech Biennale, where architect Barkow Leibenger created undulating tensile fabric canopies from the material.
PVC or silicon coated glass meshes can also be used indoors. These have high fire-resistance and act as a sunscreen, but do have a tendency to attract dirt and are short-lived. Finally, pure glass meshes can be used in larger internal spaces where open meshes are required to allow fire sprinklers to operate.