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Fabric structure showcases community performance

Landscapes | November 1, 2010 | By:

An artistic town in Uruguay gains a quality venue for cultural events and musical performance

Given the amount of artistic production the town of Treinta y Tres has produced over the years—some outstanding artists, musicians and writers (such as poet Serafin J. García and novelist Julio C. da Rosa) in Uruguay have come from here—you might think it was a much larger, more developed city than its 25,700 people. The town is noted for its annual folk music festival, attracting people from across the land and nearby countries. Legend has it this is because the Olimar Grande River is “the river that sings more,” an inspiration to artists, musicians and poets alike. Treinta y Tres is located at the confluence of two branches of the Olimar River (Olimar Grande River and Little Olimar River) fed by two streams, the Yerbal and Corrales. All this flowing water most likely helped the Olimar gain its musical reputation.

And given the importance the music festival and public performance in general has for Treinta y Tres, it makes sense that when the town’s old metal band shell blew down recently, the community quickly arranged for its replacement. Architect Roberto Santomauro, president of Sobresaliente ltda. of Montevideo, Uruguay, happily obliged by designing and fabricating a sculpturally dynamic and acoustically correct fabric structure for the city’s central riverside park, where most public performances occur and where the folk festival is often held.

Sobresaliente’s design of the replacement amphitheater is beautifully simple but effective. Two 28m-long reticulated truss arches span across the stage area transversely while three inverted butterfly trusses cross them perpendicularly, tying the fabric roof down to the back of the stage area and helping to introduce double curvature to the roof at strategic points. The three butterfly trusses start at the top of the front arch, matching the depth of the front arch where they meet, and carry loads down toward the back, giving the roof the necessary shell-like form ideal for acoustic projection. Cable hold-downs to either side of the centerline of the front truss further stabilize the structure. Fabric is pulled taut over the metal frames with ropes laced around the framing and catenary edge cables with clamps secure the low points at the back edge to the structural anchor points with no-nonsense thimble and swaged cable endings.

Santomauro says the advantages of fabric over the original metal structure are numerous: lighter weight means lighter structural members (in this case steel round pipes 5cm and 12.75cm diameter with 2.54cm platinum plate anchorages) and lower cost; the ability to demount the structure if needed in case of a flood, and improved acoustics.

The design and fabrication were done by Sobresaliente, and everything was fabricated in the shop in 30 days and assembled on-site in 10 days. Let the festival begin!

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