Desert-Adapted Mastery


A work of outstanding, technical skill, and craftsmanship.

As the appointed tent technologists, we collaborated with accomplished designers, local engineering, manufacturing and construction teams, to create this extraordinary project.

Set at the foot of a majestic rocky escarpment, with breathtaking views of wind sculptured mesas and the iconic big sky backdrop of the Colorado Plateau.

Camp Sarika is a master work in nature adaptive form and function…

From Glamping…

Our value is clearly illustrated in winning the Camp Sarika project. Historically the property owners had dabbled with the idea of “glamping” as a plug-in experience to their ultra-luxury Aman resort hotel in the Grand Canyon.

They soon lost interest after damp, wind deterioration and comfort issues developed. Although these traditional shelters are quirky and fun, they neither align with the luxury brand, nor do they perform as long-term, all weather habitats.

…to Tenthouse Structures.

Discovered via our groundbreaking work at Hoanib Skeleton Coast , we were asked to reproduce this concept in Utah. We persuaded the client to consider advanced tensile membrane technology, due to its superior performance [see Technical Challenges].

Up against well respected US based firms, we were able to win this project not just on price, but on our experience and specialist knowledge in creating luxury wilderness fabric lodges.

The Brief

Our scope as the turnkey tent specialists was to: formfind, engineer, specify, detail, supply and install the tensile membrane roofing structures and the full canvas envelope, inside and out.

We were further consulted to provide the steel frame modelling for manufacture in the USA.

We had to produce a prototype on the site for both the architects, ourselves and the contractors to proof detailing, test run performance capabilities over a full season cycle and optimize the construction process.

The guiding principle was to be as efficient (lightweight) as possible with no compromise to aesthetics and performance standards.

The Technical Challenges

Tensile membrane roof structures

Tensile membrane form and engineering is an iterative and integrated discipline (bionic design) where form and function are inseparable and influenced by multiple factors. Key factors at Camp Sarika were:

  • – Design demands and limitations
  • – Building code (imposed safety and shape factors for the State of Utah)
  • – High wind 90mp/h, snow loads 6lbs/ft2, exposed terrain & wind funneling
  • – Extreme tempratures (Outdoor -15°C to 45°C / Fabric -20°C to 90°C)
  • – Maintenance

All presented substantial challenges to the frame engineering, cable support elements, the membrane fabric, shape, size, detailing and deflection behavior.

Bionic Design Challenge

Flattening the roof to the allowed maximum height, out of view of the main hotel, limited the amount of anti-synclastic curvature we could build into the membrane system. The more shape (curvature) the more its ability to resist live loads.

This in turn influenced the fabric selection and reinforcement techniques as well as access to and views from the suites. The shallow roof angle and membrane deflection would result in ponding and the membrane touching the structures beneath. How we overcame this was to reduce the height of the perimeter masts, introduce under fabric cables, and cut dramatic, strategically positioned scallops along the edge.



Welding and stitching of technical fabrics into performance cladding, screens and membranes is a suite of highly specialised confection skills.



Tarso refers to the engineering design of connection joints in tensile membrane structures. Tarso is critical because it affects the entire structure’s stability, durability, ease of installation and maintenance, aesthetics and cost.

Vector aligned connection systems, suaged tensile cables, high tensile steel U-bolts, specialised washers, fabric reinforcement techniques.

Fabric Innovations


Working with the designers we selected neutral fabric colour palettes that complimented the surrounding environment, tent architecture and interior design.

The roof, ceiling and wall systems comprised of three layers, three different fabrics.

Layer 1 Outer Membrane Architectural PVC
Layer 2 Hermetic ceiling and exterior walling Technical canvas
Layer 3 Interior ceiling and wall liner Textured weave

Layer 1 and 2 had to speak a congruent aesthetic. Layer 3 had to tie in with the interior visuals.

All fabrics had to meet NFPA 701 fire retardant standards.

All fabrics had to be bi-axially tested for their modulus characteristics under specified pre-stress and design-life load scenarios.

In collaboration with our textile partners, layer 1 and 2 were developed with a built in heat shield to block all transmitted light energy.

Layer 3 was developed to emulate the soft handle and textured weave of duck cotton canvas with synthetic performance yarns and topical treatments for easy maintenance and dimensional stability.

The Integrated Building Systems


Tenthouse structures engineered the steel roof trusses and piston masts to fit on a timber sub-frame and the outriggers to tie into submerged footings.

Working with the local structural engineers we integrated the steel with the timber to work as a homogeneous tensile system. Connection detailing and complex structural behavior were resolved.

Tensile membrane engineering is a precise discipline. The construction of the perimeter footings and frames were set out according to design and surveyed post build. Survey information was relayed, back to our engineering team, where we upon we recalibrated the membrane system design to ‘as built’, pre-manufacture.


All our canvas cladding and linings were detailed to connect to a timber stud wall envelope. This entailed as complexities as laced-tensioned ceilings, top fitted wall profiles, ring beam profiles, and canvas clad corner trim and eave valence systems.

Hermetic ceilings had to be fitted onto non-orthogonal timber faceted surfaces with custom extruded profiles.

International Collaboration

Key Role Players

Client/Owner Canyon Development Amangiri, Utah, USA GMT-7
Tent Technologists Tenthouse Structures Cape Town, South Africa GMT+2
Architecture and Interiors Luxury Frontiers Johannesburg, South Africa GMT+2
Soft shell manufacturing Tenthouse Structures Johannesburg, South Africa GMT+2
Frame manufacturing Page Steel Page Arizona, USA GMT-7
Construction Crowther & Sons Page Arizona, USA GMT-7

Imperial vs metric

Working with engineered systems and fine canvas detail requires a high level of professional discipline to convert from metric to imperial and back again, as this is not a learned behavior. The consequences of conversion errors could lead to misalignment of integrated systems or system failure.

Time zones

Work time differences between design and field teams in both countries required a committed approach: rigorous forward planning and after hours contactability.


Tenthouse structures managed the international logistics supply including:

  • – Consolidation
  • – Packaging and labeling
  • – Export manifests
  • – Loading
  • – Sea, air and road freight
  • – Debunking

Site Operations

Site Operations is an extensive and highly specialised service covering:

  • – Storage
  • – Preparation
  • – Programming
  • – Crew supervision
  • – Tensile rigging
  • – Canvas fitment
  • – Snagging

Rigging the tensile roofs

Large span membranes are vulnerable to wind and snagging damage during erection.

Expert tensile rigging teams from South Africa and North America planned accordingly for these conditions by:

  • – Saddle-strapping the membranes along horizontal boom rigs.
  • – Lowering them into position over cones with one man positioned at each cone head.
  • – Fixing the cone heads with membrane partially wrapped to avoid flapping.
  • – Rapidly unfolding the membrane during calm conditions, with one man per connection point.
  • – Connecting perimeter points to pre-installed masts, raising the membrane and achieving first fix in one rapid process.
  • – This ensured the entire membrane had enough pre-stress to afford adequate structural stability for the protracted final fix process.


The locally constructed habitable shell was a typical North American OSB clad stud wall frame with PU insulated fill. As-built vs design tolerances were at times a little beyond the tighter acceptable tolerances for patterned fabric systems.

Our expert technical supervisors were able to make complex on-site corrections to the shells and to our interfacing systems.

Team Culture

As with all Tenthouse Structures projects outside of our home turf, cultural assimilation between professional and site teams is a valuable soft skill developed over the years of working cross borders. We relished the opportunity to work with people with different backgrounds: from Navajo First Nations to Americans, Latin Americans and South Africans


These iconic tent style-suites pioneer the future for performance fabric technology in the USA eco-hospitality landscape.

We answered the brief with iconic, efficient high performance structures where the guests can intimately reconnect with nature.

Camp Sarika is Made For The Wild.