Tensile Configurations: Prototyping Tropical Tensile Canopies

Home / Programme / Bachelor of Science (ASD) / Courses / 20.112 Sustainable Design Option Studio 2 / Tensile Configurations: Prototyping Tropical Tensile Canopies

Studio Instructor

Kenneth Tracy


Covered exterior space plays a critical role in equatorial cities. Precinct pavilions, pasar malams, walkway canopies, event pavilions and other temporal urban spaces in Singapore form a network of spaces which complement and support the dense, multi-story infrastructure of homes and office buildings. Though this network of shelter does provide shade and rain cover few of these spaces are optimized thermally. Given Singapore and other equatorial cities high diurnal temperature and high humidity they present a difficult challenge for passive design strategies. Though many traditional, modern and contemporary typologies have been developed there is still room for improvement.

Tensile Configurations will explore the use of new design tools and digital fabrication paired with lightweight and low energy materials to create new typologies for canopy structures. These case studies will be tested using 1:1 prototyping to measure their performance. The studio will augment a research team comprised of SUTD researchers, EPD faculty, ASD faculty and industry professionals. The proposals will form the basis for an exterior assembly space for the SUTD library to be completed in early 2019.

Chosen for lightness and speed of assembly textile membrane structures will be the primary area of study. Students will specifically explore the use of membranes as both skin and structure exploring membrane tensegrity typologies amongst other possible configurations using discrete compressive elements. Critical to the study will be the exploration of details for discrete connections between compression members and the continuous membrane. Bamboo, wood and paper will be explored as alternative materials for use as compressive members.

Starting with a series of CFD and form finding workshops the first half of the semester will culminate in a series of canopy proposals developed in small groups. These proposals will be physically modelled and refined using CDF, structural simulation and optimization. Connection details will be developed in parallel with the refinement of canopy designs. During the second half of the semester the proposals will be refined and then mocked up on campus. The mock-ups will be near 1:1 scale so they can be tested for structural, thermal and airflow performance. During the 1 st half of 7 th week break there will be a short trip to Bali Island to visit the sites of wood, paper and bamboo cultivation and preparation as well as visits to an extensive array of open-air canopy structures. Additionally, the trip will include visits and discussions with design/build architects whose work combines heuristic model making, studies in sustainable materials and inventive detailing.