Tensile structures: revolution in modern construction

In an era where architecture and engineering are constantly seeking innovative solutions to combine aesthetics, efficiency, and sustainability, tensile structures represent a cutting-edge response to contemporary construction needs. Characterized by their ability to support themselves through tension, these structures are revolutionizing the way we think about covered spaces, both temporary and permanent. But what exactly are tensile structures, and what advantages do they offer?

What is a Tensile Structure?

The principle behind a tensile structure is relatively simple: it consists of buildings or coverings made with materials held in tension to ensure stability and resistance. The key elements of these structures are the woven, often PVC-coated polyester, and steel. These are used to create a membrane supported by cables and anchored to pillars or other support points. This combination of materials not only offers great resistance and durability but also allows for almost unlimited design freedom, making it possible to realize coverings of vast dimensions and variable shapes.

The difference between tensile structure and tent structure

Although the terms’ tensile structure and tent structure are often used interchangeably, there are substantial differences between the two. A tensile structure is characterized by a structural function of the covering, in which the fabric tension contributes to the stability of the entire system. On the other hand, a tent structure relies on a load-bearing substructure, with the woven merely acting as a covering element, without contributing to the structural stability.

tensile structures

Why choose tensile structures?

Tensile structures offer several unique advantages that make them an optimal choice for a wide range of applications, from coverings for events and shows, to warehouses and corporate storage. Among the main benefits are:

  • Cost-effectiveness: the lightness of the materials and the reduction in assembly times translate into significant savings on construction and maintenance costs.
  • Lightness and brightness: the translucency of the used fabrics allows an optimal passage of natural light, creating bright and welcoming interior environments.
  • Versatility and design freedom: the flexibility of the materials allows covering large spaces without the need for columns or other internal supports, freeing architectural creativity.
  • Stability and safety: thanks to their ability to evenly distribute loads and withstand adverse weather conditions, tensile structures offer excellent stability and safety.

Innovation and design: the Munich Olympiastadion

The Munich Olympiastadion, designed for the 1972 Olympics, represents one of the most emblematic and innovative examples in the use of tensile structures. This project marked a turning point in modern architecture, demonstrating how construction techniques based on tension can lead to creations of extraordinary lightness and transparency.

Frei Otto was inspired by the tents of nomads, capable of withstanding extreme weather conditions, to develop his tensile structures. The use of pre-stressed steel cables and Teflon allowed the creation of a covering that not only reflects the utmost structural efficiency but also a near-poetic lightness. The Olympiastadion still impresses visitors today with its modernity, resembling a vast transparent web covering over 60,000 square meters.

tensostrutture per lo stadio di monaco


Tensile structures embody a perfect balance between functionality and aesthetics, offering innovative solutions for the most diverse covering needs. Their lightness, cost-effectiveness, and versatility make them an increasingly popular choice in many sectors, from the creation of spaces for events to the construction of permanent structures. In a world that demands ever more advanced and sustainable construction solutions, tensile structures represent a step forward towards the future of architecture and engineering.


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