Creating beautiful, functional architecture and installation art out of fabric is a phenomenon of the modern age. It is only in the past 100 years that fabric has been used for large structures such as bridges, domes, as well as canopies, shelters, and buildings. Unlike materials such as stone or wood, fabric is flexible and dynamic, adding an extra dimension to artistic works. Artists and architects all over the world have chosen to use fabric for its unique, expressive features.1. ColombiaAt a busy roundabout in Cucuta, Colombia, a pedestrian bridge constructed from bamboo and fabric was installed in 2009. Likely the largest bamboo and tensioned fabric structure ever built, the bridge has become well-known, even winning an Award for Excellence from the Industrial Fabrics Association International. A defining part of Cucuta’s urban landscape, the bridge is popular with the city’s residents.2. New ZealandArtist Anish Kapoor creates art for both permanent and temporary installation. One of his most stunning permanent pieces resides at ‘The Farm’, an outdoor art gallery near Auckland, New Zealand. The bright red fabric sculpture is 84 meters long, weighing in at over 90,000 kilograms. It consists of two 25 meter steel ellipses, one aligned horizontally and one vertically. These are connected and covered by PVC coated polyester fabric that weighs 7,200 kilograms on its own. A special cut was made in the hillside to hold the sculpture. When it is looked through, the sculpture gives the viewer a kaleidoscopic way to see the surrounding countryside.3. South AfricaThe Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in Port Elizabeth, South Africa was constructed for the 2010 football World Cup. Port Elizabeth is called the ‘Windy City’ because of its location on the coast, and the fabric stadium was built specifically to protect fans from the local elements. It is a handsome, open-air structure with translucent fabric sides, meant to allow natural light through to the inner space. The fabric is Teflon, because it is easy to maintain and lasts a long time. 22,000 square meters of Teflon were used.4. United StatesThe work ‘Surrounded Islands’ was created in 1983 by Christo and Jeanne-Claude, a married couple who design environmental works of art. The islands surrounded were in Biscayne Bay, near the coast of Florida. 603, 850 square meters of pink polypropylene fabric was used to cover the coastlines of 11 islands. The fabric was left in place for two weeks so the public could admire the artwork. Before the islands were surrounded, workers for the project spent about a year cleaning up rubbish from each land mass and its surrounding waters.
For years, the auto industry has touted the use of and need for steel in trucks, cars, and sport utility vehicles. Then, the public began asking for a more fuel efficient, less emissive, and cheaper vehicle. Newer, more environmentally sound cars are answering this call. Surprisingly, they have accomplished this without the use of the industry’s beloved steel. The kicker is that consumers didn’t notice the material switch.The Mysterious Steel SubstituteContrary to belief, magnesium alloys are much lighter than steel, cost less to fabricate, and make cars much more fuel efficient and “green”. The alloy is all of the following:A quarter of the weight of steel, but just as strong. In fact, magnesium is the lightest of all metals used to build cars, buildings, and other structures like bridges.
More impact resistant. Magnesium alloys absorb more of the impact’s energy. They are therefore more resistant to dents.
The dampening capacity or ability to reduce noise and vibration is also much higher than that of steel.
Magnesium is less rigid and bends easier than steel, making it easier to fabricate.The alloy isn’t actually new. It was discovered in 1755 by Joseph Black and isolated in 1808. The search for a more efficient and abundant material has led researchers to experiment with magnesium alloys in the place of the more traditional materials like steel that doesn’t perform as expected. The aforementioned factors have made the alloy a newfangled contraption in the auto industry.The Faces of Magnesium in AutomotivesSome of the first uses for magnesium in automotives were inside the car. Die cast steering columns, engine blocks, and chassis were just some of the uses for the alloy in cars. The vehicles were much lighter, used less gas, and had less emission as a result. Eventually, seat frames, dash panels, and the track that held the sunroof were also cast from magnesium. Naturally, the next step became taking the alloy to the outside of the car.Magnesium alloy sheeting made roof panels, hoods, oil pans and other outer elements of the common car lighter, stronger, and more resistant to impact. Expense was a concern for the die casting process, but the sheeting is less expensive because it requires less compression force to create, allows for parts consolidation and simpler designs. In addition, magnesium alloys have a shrinkage rate that is very predictable and less energy is required to make the sheets.The alloy is thus a step above steel, without a sacrifice in safety. One of the common misconceptions is that cars made from magnesium alloy as opposed to steel are less safe. You now know that the opposite is true. Magnesium alloys may just replace steel completely in the future.