Signature Structure.

The halls of the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre are separated by a vast open air Plaza that was used, until recently, as a visitors car park. Walking from one hall to another, across “Capital Plaza” in temperatures of up to 38°C (100°F) was like walking across a desert in the midday sun! That is until Shankland & Cox Architects specified Fabric Architecture’s award-winning “Pagoda” tensile structures to create two shaded walkways linking the buildings.

The challenge.

Capital Plaza is used to extend the NEC’s event space, particularly during the annual International Defence Exhibition (IDEX). Making use of Capital Plaza increases the overall floor capacity to 124,000sqm for this particular event. Therefore the tensile structures had to be semi-permanent so they could be dismantled temporarily, making space for the installation of secondary exhibition buildings.

The ten structures needed to be shipped in large containers from the UK and all components would have to be palletised for ease of unloading at site, so the client particularly liked Fabric Architecture’ Pagoda design which benefits from a series of individual parts which are fitted together quickly and simply.

The client also asked for a modification to the original design, making the roof section lower in order to suit the surrounding architecture. Again the Pagoda tensile structure is easily adapted due to it’s separate components designed in ‘kit’ form.

The solution.

Fabric Architecture’s original Pagoda was based on the Pyramid and won a British Design Council award in 1988. For the Abu Dhabi project the central apex was lowered to 3.6m high, making it level with the height of the surrounding architectural perimeter points.

To prevent trip hazards, we designed a flat foot plate with countersunk holes and fixings which could be left in the ground when the Pagodas were temporarily removed. The steel masts are simply bolted back in place to secure the canopies when re-installed.

Each section of the fabric canopies can be folded up while still attached to their aluminium framework, then wrapped in protective polythene for storage. These sections can be manually carried and either laid flat or stood vertically in a storage container until they are ready to be used again. The steel masts are also relatively lightweight at 40kg each, making re-installation quick and easy for a two-person team.