Shops and restaurants prefer to make their surroundings more attractive. Often they choose to move to newly-built premises in shopping malls at the edge of larger urban populations. But what if it were possible to revive and enhance the neighbourhood they are already in, and make it attractive and pleasant-to-be-in, regardless of the weather?
In the canton of St Gallen, Switzerland, the architectural firm Nikolai Kugel (Stuttgart) was hired to do just this for the Metzgergasse in Buchs and came up with a very interesting solution.
Today, a foldable fabric membrane roof constructed using SEFAR® Architecture TENARA® fabric 4T40HF spans the 11 m wide and 50 m long Metzgergasse in the heart of the town. It runs lengthwise along four parallel rails and can be lowered and retracted under a parking bridge at the northern end of the street to look like an entrance arch to the street. In only a few minutes, the membrane can be deployed to span an area of approximately 525m². When in place, the fabric forms an undulating roof, having an average height of 6.50m above street level. Shoppers and sight-seers can wander outdoors and be protected from sun and rain, and outdoor seating is available for restaurants Additionally, LEDs are incorporated in order to provide accent lighting and pleasant coloring effects during evening hours.
Withstanding wind and weather
A particular challenge in the foothills of the Alps is that there are sometimes quite strong winds; they are not unusual in the Swiss-Austrian Rhine Valley. Because of this, the tear-resistant TENARA® fabric was subjected to extensive wind tunnel testing. After construction, the dirt resistant and water-proofed fabric is deployed using electrically driven drums and catenary cables to pre-stress the fabric in both directions to generate its final wind-stable state.
The selected membrane made of polytetrafluoroethylene (teflon) is chemically inert, absolutely UV-resistant and colourfast, and its natural colour is white. It’s very high translucency of 38% makes it perfect for use during daytime and evening, and stays intact for an extremely large number of deployments: this is largely due to its low weight per unit area.
Enhancement for commerce, restaurants and residents
Today, events such as street fairs or theme evenings can take place in the redesigned part of the town centre, without having to worry about weather conditions. The shop owners and restaurateurs report a significant customer experience, which is confirmed by the increase in sales figures. The highly-functional SEFAR Tenara fabric, which the Stuttgart architects had already used in a project for the festival arena in Kufstein, had proven to be an excellent choice and was greatly appreciated by the residents and properety owners of the revitalized pedestrian zone. Also the acoustic benefits of the stretched membrane provide significant noise reduction, and make for a harmoniously balanced street-life, and an open-air feeling.