The key distinction between tensioned fabric structures and other structures, both fabric and “hard,” is the relatively minimal support system a tensile structure requires. As with any technology, when the basic design and engineering have been developed and advanced, greater refinement of the details can occur. Although the basics — such as clamping systems — have become more standardized (since the majority of tensile structures are custom designs), their anchoring and connection details also are unique. Some of the frame and connection materials hail from other industries, such as space frames and marine rigging.
To determine the appropriate aesthetic design, consider the following:
- Some tensile structure primary materials are flexible and the details are designed to move under loads.
- Tensile structures weigh a fraction of what other buildings weigh; many of their materials are translucent.
- Lateral forces play a much greater role in tensile structures than in conventional structures.
- Reduce the problem to its simplest state with a minimum number of elements.
- Be sure the physical resolution of each element’s force vector (angle of direction and magnitude) is accurate.