Specialty Fabrics Review December 2019 - 54

FOCUS

MARKETS

Eight 50-by-20-foot wings were
fabricated with a steel frame, internally
lit with LED light fixtures and wrapped
in PVC membrane before being lifted
via crane and attached to the air traffic
control tower at Stinson Municipal
Airport. TX30-II fabric by Serge Ferrari
was chosen for its durability, color,
light transmission, strength and the
capability to add a graphic component. A
single piece of the PVC-coated polyester
membrane is wrapped around each
wing. Photos: Brantley Hightower.

Structured symbolism
International Tension Structures lifts a community's sense of
pride, one 50-foot, membrane-wrapped steel wing at a time.
BY HOLLY EAMON

A

rchitecture without a definitive function is not an easy sell. But it's rarely a regret.
"The concept is hard for people to digest, especially early on in a project," says Jacob
Schwartz, director of engineering and construction, International Tension Structures
(ITS), Phoenix, Ariz. "Sometimes even a shade component isn't functional enough, so you
need to include the right people from the start who can take on those arguments and see a
vision through."
This is where ITS shines as a custom tensile membrane structure contractor. "I've never
had a client come back and say, 'I wish we wouldn't have added that component.' It's always
the exact opposite," Schwartz says. "The trickier or more complicated the project, the more
we gravitate toward it."

Collaboration is key
The Stinson air traffic control tower
project's architects already had a design
when they approached Jacob Schwartz
and his team at International Tension
Structures, but a key contributor to the
project's success was the collaboration
between them as they finalized the design
and construction documents together.
"We really like to roll up our sleeves and
pair up with design teams," Schwartz
says. "The success rate when we are
engaged is a hundredfold better than it
is when we are brought in after the fact."
54 REVIEW DECEMBER 2019

AN ICONIC INQUIRY
ITS received a unique opportunity to demonstrate this over two years ago when a group of
San Antonio, Texas-based architects-Brantley Hightower of HiWorks and Jay Louden and
Rebekah Perez of Work5hop-reached out to collaborate on a concept they developed for a
local design competition for an air traffic control tower at Stinson Municipal Airport. Built to
commemorate more than 100 years of aviation at Stinson, which the United States Army Air
Forces used as a training base during World War II, the tower was lacking in aesthetic appeal.
Their winning design, "Wings over Stinson," features eight 50-foot-long, illuminated
airplane wings flipped upright and attached to the side of the tower. After multiple trips to
San Antonio to finalize the construction package, Schwartz and his team mocked up a full
wing in Phoenix-where they manufactured each final component-for the builder and
architects to inspect before giving the green light.
WRAPPING THE WINGS
Each wing's internal structural components are composed of galvanized steel. The 8-inchdiameter HSS tube and the internal webbing, made of a 2-inch square steel tube, form a truss
to provide structural integrity, similar to what an actual airplane wing would have to support



Specialty Fabrics Review December 2019

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