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Fabric canopies showcase the flexibility of space

Exteriors, Features | January 1, 2009 | By:

Two public atria — one in Peru, the other in Mexico — welcome natural light in poetic interplay.

Dance of the sun

In the heart of Oaxaca, a historic southern Mexican city east of Acapulco, is a popular tourist destination called Los Danzantes (“The Dancers”). Los Danzantes is housed in a restored colonial-era building near Santo Domingo Church, and serves an innovative fusion of Mexican-Oaxacan cuisine of seafood, pasta and meat or poultry dishes. To mitigate Oaxaca’s unrelenting sun, Mexican fabricators Carpas Y Lonas el Carrousel proposed a retractable fabric canopy over an open air atrium in the center of the block where patrons dine al aire libre. Floating like a cloud over the atrium, the canopy provides welcome shade without modifying the character of the stately colonial architecture that surrounds the space.

During the day when the 14m by 14m square canopy remains extended, the structure shades the courtyard. Because it is mounted above the walls that delimit the space, the fabric appears weightless.

During warm and calm nights, the cover is retracted to let the starry sky illuminate the place. In case of rain, the extended canopy channels water down towards a shallow pond in the front of the atrium, permitting continuous use of the space.

The canopy is animated by means of mobile scissors that are anchored to the bottom cord of the support frame (which is also the lower edge of the lifting arms) by means of traveling trucks. The assembly is driven by two electric motors controlled by an automatic system for closing and opening.

Bright passage

Shoppers at the Mall Paseo Quilin — located in the commune of La Florida, in the capital city of Santiago, Chile — don’t worry about too much sun or rain when they pass through the main courtyard, where catered dining and special events often take place among the hustle and bustle of shopping. A bright, translucent tensile fabric canopy hangs over the courtyard shielding customers from sun and rain.

The coverage consists of a single 572m2 membrane stretched between the highest points of the buildings surrounding the square and two low points held down by two metal tripods to form a central valley in the fabric. The membrane has transparent “windows” inserted randomly across the entire surface that allow direct sunlight to pass through. The valley has the dual function of siphoning off rain and providing sustinance to the landscape as its two low points drain into lush gardens.

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