Canada Place, Vancouver
Friday November 29 2019

What is textile architecture?

When I introduce myself, I try to explain briefly what we do at Sollertia: textile architecture. And then the explanation tends to get much longer than expected.

Why? Do you know what textile architecture is?

In textile architecture, your material is a flexible and efficient composite membrane. Depending on the intended use of the structure you are designing, the membrane will be chosen to have the appropriate properties (durability, tensile strength, fire resistance, UV resistance, translucency, etc.). The tensioned membrane may be applied as a façade cladding with an structure to support it….  Or you make use of the textile as a structural element, which is really the fun part. Unlike traditional construction materials, textiles can take on various non-obvious shapes. Since the final shape of a textile structure depends directly on the internal forces in the tensioned membrane, studies and analyses of the membranes must be integrated early in the design of an architectural project in order to obtain the optimal shape (membrane geometry vs. sizing of the structural elements) of the textile structure. This process is called form finding.

Canada Pavilion, photo: François-Regis Fournier

Today, this is done using software. You can find out more about the basic and most common shapes in this article.

Although textile architecture does not seem to be well known, we have remarkable textile structures right here in Montreal! Thanks to Expo 67, we have the Canada Pavilion on Notre Dame Island, one of the few remaining pavilions in the original exhibition.

The glass curtain wall is crowned with pyramidical façade elements made of textile membrane panels. This original fabric lasted for forty years! Can you imagine, only in 2017, the original textile membrane was replaced!

In the photo on the right, you see the newly replaced membrane on the front and the original inside the building. The renovation was entrusted to the Sollertia team by Héloise Thibodeau Architect. The original concept was redone using today’s methods and materials.

During this renovation, the Jean Drapeau Park Society added a multi-coloured LED lighting system inside the pyramidal volumes. You can find more pictures of the project here.

Canada Pavilion
Canada Pavilion, Notre Dame Island

In my next blog post, I’ll talk about other textile structures in Montreal!

Canada Pavilion - Entrance