Thursday December 19 2019

Tensile fabric architecture in Montreal

Winter is here, earlier than expected! Time for me to write about tensile fabric architecture here in Montreal as promised in my last blog post. The projects mentioned are exterior structures.

Obviously, I was not talking about these “abris tempos” which pop up every winter :

I think it goes without saying, that the most prominent and recognizable textile structure in Montreal is the roof of the Olympic Stadium designed by the late Roger Taillibert. Its original and audacious design from 1972 comprised a retractable roof suspended from an inclined tower which was finally completed in 1987! To this day the Olympic Stadium creates strong emotions among Montrealers, but that is a different topic.

Sadly, Roger Taillibert passed away in October of this year (more in The Globe and Mail).  He was a passionate architect who aimed to create a significant architecture, places that have the power to inspire emotions.  We salute the innovative spirit of the father of the Olympic Stadium in Montreal.

Olympic Stadium Montreal, photo : Mahnaz Nikbakht

Today, the stadium is covered by a fixed textile structure using a PTFE membrane, but a new roof is being discussed and a call for pre-qualification submissions has been launched. If you are interested in knowing more about the roof of the stadium, the RIO (Régie des installations olympiques) has created a webpage dedicated to it:

In its close vicinity, a beautiful gem is hidden: the Fuji Pavilion in the Botanical Garden. This structure has been designed by Sarah Bonnemaison and Christine Macy (cofounders of Filum design practice) in 1996. For over 20 years, this structure has been exposed to the weather, sun, rain, ice and snow! This textile structure with a double curvature geometry is crowned by some 11 feet wide forged iron finials fabricated by John Little. This structure is definitely worth a visit.

Fuji Pavillon

Fuji Pavilion, Botanical Garden Montreal, photos: John Little

Tensile fabric architecture is possible in climates such as Quebec, and now more than ever. The architectural membranes available, whether PTFE, PVC (more info on membranes) or other, have greatly evolved. Lifetime expectancy for exterior applications easily surpass 20 years. The load analysis as well as the pattern cutting have been perfected using special design software made for tensile structures. Membranes can be used just like any other building material.

Take the Denver airport as an example. Snow loads have been considered from the start at the design phase. All loads are applied, the shape and structure were developed consequently!

Denver International Airport, photo: