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Architectural Engineering and Design Management

Special Issue | Sustainable Innovations in Minimal Mass Structures and Lightweight Architectures

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The 2019 TensiNet edition open a twofold reflection - by means of both the conference and the exhibition - on current innovations, trends and strategies in the field of lightweight membrane structures and mainly on the future of those technologies, which the TensiNet Association is interested in: tensile and pneumatic structures, textile architecture, membranes and foils, ultra-lightweight constructions and structural skins.

Innovation in lightweight construction and

membrane materials


Lightweight structures have been regularly applied in the field of human construction, and have been so for more than ten thousand years. They have recently seen a considerable expansion due to the promising prospects that they offer, accounting for a larger proportion of the overall volume of buildings.  The last few decades have brought numerous significant innovations in terms of materials, design and computation tools, as well as construction detailing and installation methodology. As a consequence of such innovative applications, membrane construction now has an established place in the field of Architecture. However, some imperative questions arise. At what stage of development are the best built examples today? How will textile architecture evolve in the near future? Can we expect any major innovations in this area? What part of our imagination still remains to be explored today? Will current technical advancements in materials production lead to lighter and more efficient structures and to greater environmentally sustainable enclosures? What is the biggest challenge of the next few decades in the field of tensile structures? Can we envision a future where unknown durable and recyclable materials will contribute to decrease the current conflicts between society and nature?

Three mornings of inspiring keynote lectures plus a number of plenary sessions, followed by just as many afternoons of open panel discussions and parallel sessions create a very special event where experts in the areas of membrane architecture and engineering, as well as researchers and industry representatives are contributing to constructive debates on soft structures, softening the environment and soft skins.

The “Softening” admonition


The current regulatory and operative frameworks require designers, researchers and industry executives to systematically consider the theme of societal, economical and environmental sustainability as a pivotal point of their work. Thus, the conference focuses on how building technologies on membranes are being more and more directed towards achieving a smaller environmental footprint and obtaining more resilient cities and landscapes. Worldwide, the lifestyle is increasingly characterized by requirements of flexibility, speed and dematerialization. Further applications of lightness and findings could be foreseen and experimented in the field of extreme living structures, meaning on one side the structures of post-emergency recovery, that have to perform requirements of speed, low-budget and modularity. On the other side, the design of structures for outer space, that need to perform high-tech requirements, in an opposite way, for the extreme living. In this regard, the TensiNet 2019 symposium host a number of panel discussions in order to develop synergies among all experts of the sector, who are united to redefine the aesthetic and functional principles of today’s and tomorrow’s textile architecture. Nevertheless, the conference proposes also to deeply reflect on the theme of lightness in architecture, as well as how lighter constructions can potentially generate novel ideas on habitats.

Through the conference and the exhibition, the TS19 shows an exhaustive picture of responsibilities at various levels – academia, industries, practitioners, construction sector and standards – acting on tensile, membrane and foil constructions in Europe and worldwide. This objective is coherent with the main role of the TensiNet Association, disseminating more and more updated information at the regional level and amplifying it to the global scale, and vice-versa.

With the aim to unite academics, industry representatives and leaders in the topic of lightweight material innovations, tools and field advancements, the TS19 works on generating new synergies among professionals and envisioning new perspectives and outlooks within academia and industries. Eventually, again both through conference and the exhibition, a deeper understanding of the latest, most emblematic tensile constructions and of the different team collaborations on specific projects provides an unprecedented mapping of information and material flows. The final topic, in this way, is the promotion of knowledge on recent innovations related to the environmental mitigation and adaptation towards more sustainable materials in textile architecture, and the spreading of a more conscious circular economy-based design approach between TensiNet members, new visitors and new scientists.

Three main discussion focuses envisage new ways for lightening or softening our current spaces, both outdoors and indoors. Novel ideas and concepts of softer habitats, as well as advanced and innovative techniques for optimizing the structures and/or for reducing the environmental impacts of the production of composites materials are inspiring us, thanks the keynote lecturers’ contributions, which are dealing with disruptive mind-sets, design methodologies, innovative technologies and advanced manufacturing in the fields of social and environmental sciences and in the field of engineering and construction.

Important Dates
Full paper submission: 10 November, 2019
Review submission: 30 November, 2019
Revised paper submission: 30 December, 2019
Final decision: 15 January, 2020

Topics of interest


Lightweight Architecture

Architectural Engineering

Textile Architecture

Membranes and Foils for Construction

Adaptive skins, kinetic/kinematic façades


Design and Construction processes

Form-Finding and structural analysis tools

Design & Simulation of lightweight structures

Analysis and testing of lightweight materials


Sustainability of lightweight constructions

Structural efficiency

Minimization of Materials in Construction

Weight reduction opportunities in design and manufacturing

Guest Editors


Prof. Alessandra Zanelli (alessandra.zanelli@polimi.it), 
Politecnico di Milano, Dept. Architecture Built Environment and Construction Engineering, Italy

Dott. Carol Monticelli (carol.monticelli@polimi.it),
Politecnico di Milano, Dept. Architecture Built Environment and Construction Engineering, Italy

Prof. Marijke Mollaert (marijekev@vub.ac.be),
Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Dept. of Architectural Engineering, Belgium

Prof. Peter Gosling, BEng, MSc (Eng), DIC, PhD, CEng, FIStructE (peter.gosling@newcastle.ac.uk), 
Newcastle University, School of Engineering