Fabric structures offer great protection against the elements, as they are underpinned by the modern reinvention of an ancient architectural formula: three classical Roman virtues plus four classical Greek elements equals architectural perfection.

Braving the elements

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The classical Roman virtues of functionality (utilitas), stability (firmitas) and beauty (venustas) combined with the classical Greek ‘four elements’ concept (earth, fire, air and water) encourages respect for nature in art and ultimately leads to physical completeness and perfection.

The fabric of life

The enchanting and practical ways in which contemporary spaces have interwoven this ancient philosophy with current architectural innovation to ensure harmony with nature include:

Bush Retreat, Australian National Botanic Gardens, Canberra (earth and fire)

The Australian National Botanic Gardens required state-of-the-art, cost-effective and scalable shading structures to preserve the delicate native flora, herbarium of plant specimens and provide a cool external retreat for landscape conservation, scientific research and educational activities in the arid bush environment.

Pure white pleated tensile fabric structures were designed to resemble and balance the natural beauty and healing properties of trees with the functional stability and high reflectivity of artificial fibres. Nurturing the gardens with the necessary translucency and curvilinear protection via these structures successfully diffused sunlight and filtered moisture to maintain vital connection with nature, soften solar load and minimise drying effects on the earth from heat exposure.

Eden Project, Cornwall, United Kingdom (air and water)

The iconic, bohemian and highly-sustainable indoor rainforest known as the Eden Project is the product of visionary professionals who pioneered the creation of low-energy designs with renewable features from ethically sourced fabric materials, including those used by tensile structure experts such as fabric architecture. The Mediterranean Rainforest Biomes housing the butterfly sanctuaries are just some of the core spaces demonstrating the vast potential of fabric architecture for creating attractive, safe, green and versatile havens for exploring native fauna.

Finding inspiration in the famous geodesic and Fibonacci sequence systems, cleverly epitomised by the Montreal Biosphere in Canada, each dome features a high strength honeycomb matrix of air-filled, translucent ethylene tetrafluoroethylene (ETFE) copolymer bubbles. These kaleidoscopic fabric beehive structures transmit all the essential ultra-violet (UV) light, ventilation, moisture and rainwater harvesting capabilities required to cultivate a healthy environment for the native butterflies to thrive in, while ensuring public showcasing is achieved in a highly ethical manner.