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Birdair, Inc. comes through under pressure to assist in Galerías Cuernavaca completion

Birdair, Inc. comes through under pressure to assist in Galerías Cuernavaca completion

Published: September 11, 2007

Birdair, Inc. recently extended its reach into significant architectural retail shopping market of Latin America, working under demanding deadlines to successfully design and fabricate a tensile fabric membrane and steel cable roof structure for the Cuernavaca Mall in Cuernavacas, Mexico.

The upscale shopping center, known locally as Galerías Cuernavaca, was already under construction when project directors revised their original roofing plans. Consequently, Birdair was brought on board in midstream, charged with engineering a dynamic canopy system for the 73,000-square-foot facility (6,808 sq. meters) using pre-existing dimensions and external building envelope materials.

Birdair, well known for providing design, fabrication and erection of lightweight tensile structures throughout the world, completed the engineering, fabrication, shipping and installation -- on time and on budget -- in less than 11 months. In addition, Birdair materials delivered included highly translucent PTFE fabric membrane, structural steel, cable, clamping, tools and construction supervision.

Galerías Cuernavaca ranks as one of the largest retail development projects completed by Birdair in Mexico.

“The biggest challenge was working with the existing geometry,” said Peter Wright, project manager for Birdair. “My hat’s off to the architect [Marcos Suberville of Interdiseños S.A. de C.V in Col. Lomas Altas, Mexico] for making the decision to go with a design utilizing light and space. But matching the fabric to the building was a challenge because you constantly had to check and re-check the measurements against the plans and survey drawings. Plus, the timing was very tight.”

The mall, located south of Mexico City near the scenic mountains of Cuernavaca in Morelos, is a popular weekend destination for urban residents. This location offered Birdair engineers and designers the chance to collaborate with the architect, Suberville, and to capitalize on the rugged beauty of the local environment. Using fabric, steel and cable, Birdair created a notable series of cone structures that echo the local mountains, elevated and anchored by a unique mast-and-socket system.

The masts, located at the central entrance vestibule, food court and cinema, tilt at strategic angles for an added visual effect.

Custom hydraulic machinery stretched the fabric canopy to its proper tension from points as high as 72 feet (22 meters). Once raised, the masts were held in place by a cable bracing system that significantly reduced the required diameter of the steel masts.

The resulting interior space showers visitors with abundant natural daylight. From the food court, shoppers are afforded a striking view of the mountains in the distance.

Due to the size and complexity of the project, Wright said the final seam layout was achieved thanks to a remarkable team effort between Suberville and Birdair engineers, who carefully patterned the membrane to make sure that all seams meet at a common point.

To do so, clamping connections were designed with enough flexibility to meet the existing pre-cast and pre-stressed concrete structure, constantly making adjustments during development. It was a difficult process, factoring in the irregular shape of the fabric panels, the pre-existing dimensions and the technical requirements of the coated fabric. But Wright said the rewards were worth it.

“The building owner and tenants are very satisfied with the results,” he said. “We believe the success of this project has put us in a good position for future developments in the Mexican market.”

Galerías Cuernavaca provides an intriguing glimpse at the possibilities of custom tensile fabric and steel cable architecture in commercial and retail applications. Further, Galerías Cuernavaca highlights Birdair’s unparalleled adaptability, working with architects and general contractors to show that lightweight tensile architecture can be an exciting and visually striking option for any building application, no matter the challenges.

Download PDF Version: PDF icon 2007-09-25_Cuernavaca_Mall.pdf

About Birdair: Birdair, Inc. is the leading specialty contractor of custom tensile structures throughout the world. In addition to pre-construction services such as design assistance, budgeting, construction methodologies and project scheduling, Birdair provides design-build solutions in all aspects of project design, engineering, installation and maintenance. The company offers a selection of architectural fabric membranes, including PTFE fiberglass, ETFE film, PVC and Tensotherm™. Birdair, based in Buffalo, NY, is a member of the Taiyo Kogyo Group, with operations serving North and South America and other international locations. For more information about Birdair, like us on Facebook, call 1-800-622-2246 or visit www.birdair.com.