Membrane Structures

Membrane Structures are lightweight constructions full of beauty and elegance. It is the art of spanning enormous distances with minimal material thickness, where design is following forces. This symbiosis of form and structure reduces weight, minimizes the amount of resources and thus saves energy and cost and creates light flooded, striking and impressive forms of architecture.



Key Facts


Not only visually, the structure is unique, it is a lso structurally optimized and highly efficient. The enormous range of spanning capabilityrequire less primary structure and are thus very cost-effective.

Compared to traditional building materials Membrane Structures offer building owners plenty of column-free space, reduced construction and maintenance costs and very long durability.  Membranes are extremely robust, long lasting, weather resistant, providing strength and permanence for the material. Membranes can be installed in all sorts of climates ranging from cold and dry to hot and humid with a project life in some cases even exceeding 30 years.


The Membrane Structures are environmentally sensitive as they reduce the material to a minimum. Most of the materials are recyclable. The high sun reflectivity and low absorption of sunlight reduces the solar energy and heat gain that enters the structure, properties of high importance for low energy building strategies. In addition natural daylight is used efficiently instead of cost-intensive electric light. Insulated composite systems extend the contribution of Membrane Structures in terms of thermal efficiency.


Membrane structures are lightweight spatial structures made of tensioned membranes. They can be used as façade, as indoor ceiling, as roofing, sculpture or as complete building envelope of monumental buildings, like stadia.

Membrane Structure meets highest esthetical requirements. Today, membrane structures are often used as multi-functional structural surface elements between indoor and outdoor. They can serve as shelter to wind, rain and snow, as protection due to the sun or as a big skylight to get natural light inside a building. Multilayer-membrane systems can be used, for example, as translucent or transparent thermal insulation or as structural surface to support photovoltaic modules or LED-technology.

Types and Form 

The variety of forms of Membrane Structures is endless. In principle, the membrane structures can be divided into two main different types: The mechanically pre-tensioned and pneumatically pre-tensioned Structures.

The mechanical pre-tension delivers, for example, saddle-shaped (anticlastic) surfaces, like pre-tensioned sails. The pneumatic pre-tension delivers, for example, air inflated cushions, tubes or air halls with synclastic surfaces in most of areas. Some membranes are supported by single cables or cable nets.


To transfer the loads superimposed with the membranes pre-tension into the primary structure (and from there into the ground) properly, the membrane ideally needs a double curvature. In the mathematical context the double curvature is called GAUSS-curvature. In synclastic areas the GAUSS-curvature is positive, in anticlastic areas negative. In flat areas and in turning points of the surface, that means when a synclastic area is changing into an anticlastic area, the GAUSS-curvature is zero. Flat membranes also count as membrane structure, but they don’t use the advantageous properties of a double curved tensioned surface element.

Contemporary membrane structures have to be structurally analyzed, well designed and erected safely. If they are planned, build and maintained according to the current state of technology and in a proper way, they can get a high durability and a lifetime of 15, 20, 30 or more years, depending, for example, on the local environmental exposure and the different aspects of utilization.

All membrane structures can be described as secondary structure, stabilized by a so called primary structure. That means, the primary structure made of rigid materials, like steel or wood, doesn’t collapse, when the membrane structure (as secondary structure) is taken away.


Membrane structures consist of different components, like membrane(s), tension and boundary cables with their fittings, extrusion profiles and fasteners, masts, columns or rods, and finally the foundations.

The membrane can be made of diverse materials, in the first line coated textile fabrics or foils, sometimes also called as films. The membrane material must be flexible, but strong enough to withstand the outer loads, for example wind and snow, safely.

Pneumatic structures additionally need an air supply system, consisting of air ducts and air blower units.

MS are typically used in roofs and façades for any type of building, often seen in arenas, airport terminals, train stations, shopping malls, shaping dominant landmarks and eye catchers or quietly envelope existing buildings. Membrane Structures are all-rounder. They can be used where a sensitive material is needed to bring lightness and translucency into play, where a strong material is needed to span huge distances or wherever expressive design should demonstrate architectural beauty and grace. 

Membrane Structures are competitive alternative to glass structures as they are cheaper, lighter in weight and capable to span far larger distances. Membrane structures are more flexible, excellent for all movable structures and devoted to complex shapes.

On our website you find all information on Membrane Structures: Explore the diversity and variety of amazing projects, build all over the world. Discover ingenious, simple or sophisticated details. Learn about the peculiarities of the membrane material. Be informed about our members, all services they are providing, get an overview on upcoming events, find relevant literature or simply enjoy the World of membranes.



Project Database

Get inspired by heaps of wunderful Membrane Structures full of beauty and elegance. This database, kindly provided by Formfinder, shows projects of AMA members exclusively. Click here to enter the database.