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Education under fabric dome

Case Studies, Features | August 28, 2014 | By:

Titanium-oxide-coated PTFE membrane over children’s museum is translucent and self-cleaning.

Known as Centro Ambar to Tijuana natives, the Ambar Interactive Center in Tijuana, Baja California, Mexico, was built by the government of Tijuana with support from the state and federal governments. The museum is located next to Morelos Park and forms part of a cultural corridor that starts with the interactive museum and ends with the State Arts Center—all at the level of a nearby river.

The Ambar Interactive Center aims to teach children about the problems caused by drug addiction. The facility is made up of four rooms and in those areas visitors learn about science, the human brain, addiction and a life plan, all related to the consumption of drugs.

“The client requested a memorable structure,” says Hector Perez, business development manager of Birdair Inc., the fabricator of the fabric roof, “which this building delivers with its pristine white roof silhouette. As the first structure in Mexico with TiO2-coated PTFE membrane, the Ambar Interactive Center will benefit from the material’s high degree of translucency, which subtly allows natural light to filter through the space.”

The left and right hemispheres of the structure match the asymmetry of the brain and pay homage to the different functions of each side. The roof is split by a band of glass with a smooth half-dome on one side and two overlapping domes on the other side. Although it looks as if the fabric shapes should retract, they are fixed and supported by a lightweight latticework of steel struts that bring the dome forces down to a structural rim plate at the roof edge. The central glazed band is flanked with a curved truss beam on the side of the two overlapping domes, and a single, thin steel arch on the other side. Both half-domes are tightly fitted with fabric.

The roof fabric membrane is PTFE glass fiber coated with non-toxic and flame-resistant TiO2 (titanium dioxide) that requires less maintenance due to its self-cleaning capabilities. The material is highly durable, weather and fire resistant, and has a projected life expectancy exceeding 20 years.

The museum is expected to educate approximately 150,000 to 200,000 children annually.

Bruce N. Wright, AIA, the former editor of Fabric Architecture magazine, is a writer and editor, and his firm, Just Wright Communications, is consultant to architects, engineers and graphic designers.

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