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Tensile structures, membrane lightweight structures and awnings; what is what?

Let’s go to the beginning, the name. Tensile structures, tensile structures or tensile structures are all considered correct and refer to the same thing.

A structural system whose main function is to transmit stress and loads through tension. Just like a rope.

A rope can be very useful for pulling an object, but it is completely useless for pushing.

Tensile structures are the forerunners of membrane lightweight structures and stretched canvas covers. However, they do not exclusively refer to these.

Primeras Tenso estructuras en México

Archdeacon Bridge

The archdeacon bridge is one of the first tensile structures in our country. Doesn’t it look so much like a membrane lightweight structure or does it?

A more modern example of a tensile structure other than membrane lightweight structures is the HYPARCH designed la tortuga suspension bridge which was awarded the 2016 CICEJ award.
Tenso Estructuras - puente colgante la tortuga

La Tortuga suspension bridge – CICEJ award 2016

The Raleigh arena is a somewhat different example. It dates back to the 50s and although it seems, it is not a membrane lightweight structures. The concrete deck was.

Tenso estructuras

Ralleigh Arena North Carolina 1950

Today this project could be replicated with a stretched canvas cover to make an authentic membrane lightweight structures.

The Tensile Structures of the Munich Olympic Stadium by Frei Otto can be considered almost as a membrane lightweight structures.

In fact, Frei Otto is considered the father of Textile Architecture, and his projects are considered the forerunners of membrane lightweight structures.

Tenso estructuras casi velarias

Frei Otto Munich Olympic Complex

The Munich Olympic Stadium was made up of cable networks and glass panels that made up the roof.

What we know today as membrane lightweight structures or lonarias are tensile structures based on flexible textile materials that resemble the sail of a ship, hence its name.

Membranes lightweight structures can be covered or they can be merely aesthetic that do not fulfill a covering function.

Tenso estructra - velaria escultorica

membrane lightweight structures sculptorica in Guadalajara


Tenso estructuras velarias que no son cubiertas

Membrane lightweight structures for auditorium in Ensenada, Baja California Norte.


cubiertas para espacios abiertos

Guadalajara stretched canvas cover Is it a membrane lightweight structures?

The previous image is a stretched canvas cover in Guadalajara and although it could be called membrane lightweight structures, we experts would prefer to call it a stretched cover.

Generally, textile architecture experts call membrane lightweight structures a whimsically taut structure with little fabric structure that can be a covering.

Velaria tenso estructura - Hampton Inn los cabos

Membrane lightweight structures tensile structure – Hampton Inn los cabos

Awnings are the cumbersome cousin of membrane lightweight structures and taut structures.

Awnings can be covers or curtains made of canvas or some other textile materials. However, they are usually very light temporary structures for commercial use.

Awnings for the most part are generally not calculated and are not considered textile architecture.

The materials used for awnings are usually considerably cheaper, but of lower quality and guarantee, in addition to not having structural capabilities.

Ejemplos toldos

Awnings examples

In summary:

1) Tensile structures are more than covers and membrane lightweight structures.

2) All membrane lightweight structures are tensile structures but not all are covered.

3) The stretched canvas covers can be membrane lightweight structures.

4) A membrane lightweight structures is a tensile structure usually with organic and capricious shapes and a low structural density.

5) A membrane lightweight structures has structural capacity in all its elements, including the canvas whose material is guaranteed for up to 25 years.

6) A tensile structure, a membrane lightweight structures and a tensioned cover must be expertly calculated through rigorous engineering processes.

7) membrane lightweight structures, tensioned roofs, and in some cases tense large structures must go through a wind tunnel.

8) Awnings are not tensile structures, they are not membrane lightweight structures, nor are they tensioned covers.

9) Awnings are generally not calculated. They have no structural capacity.

10) No matter what you call it, there is a product for every need and taste. However, the important thing is quality and safety.

Be it tensile structure, membrane lightweight structures, tensioned cover, awning or even inflatable covers. At Hyparch we will provide you with the best product and service. Quote in 24hr


The first tensile structures