‘How to get started with fabric structures’
By N. Jane Hurt and Annemarie Jacques
The Architect’s Workshop: “How to Get Started with Fabric Structures,” sponsored by the Industrial Fabrics Association International (IFAI), the Lightweight Structures Association (a division of IFAI), and Fabric Architecture, October 22 in Charlotte, N.C., was a wonderful opportunity for our architecture students. My two colleagues, Professors Annemarie Jacques and Harry Harritos, and I had given our fourth-year design students a choice between two competitions to be completed during the Fall 2008 semester. One of these was the Design For The Children, East Africa Pediatric Design Competition sponsored by Architecture For Humanity in partnership with Fight For The Children, and AIA Seattle. The other was to design a Maritime Museum for Northerly Island along Chicago’s Lake Michigan shoreline. This was sponsored by the Metal Construction Association (its Fall 2008 Student Design Competition). The two projects had extreme differences of latitude and longitude that would alter their sustainable design qualities in relation to the use of fabric architecture solutions to be integrated with students’ building designs.
For example, a major issue of concern in Africa is not only controlling sun, but also finding ways to gather water into cisterns for use during dry seasons. As out students were already interested in ways of using fabric in architecture for either competition, when Jacques suggested attending the IFAI symposium they were very keen to attend.
In all, it was Jacques and Hurt, plus 10 students who made the trip to Charlotte to attend the symposium. The three-part workshop was most informative in sequence, content and appropriateness of materials. North Carolina architect Frank Harmon’s focus on sustainability, engineer Wayne Rendely’s explanations of engineering qualities of textiles as used in structures, and architect Samuel Armijos’s “Five Steps” to making a design concept become a textile reality were very well done. In addition, handouts provided for each of these speakers gave us the illustrations they used; a most valuable reminder of their topics.
The fact that the symposium was adjacent to the IFAI trade show thoroughly enriched the Charlotte venue as everyone interested in the topic was able to examine the materials — fabrics as well as structural systems — in person. We are most grateful to IFAI for the gracious welcome extended to us and our students. That many of our students were able to apply the new concepts to their projects demonstrated that the topics covered were timely, enriching our studio projects.