Edge of the Wild

Introduction

We collaborated with accomplished design and construction teams as the appointed tent experts, to create the extraordinary Noka Camp. Set along an elevated ridge with breath-taking views overlooking the winding Palala River, Noka is an icon of South African wilderness fabric architecture.

The Scope & Challenges

Our scope was to design-engineer, supply and supervise the installation of tensile membrane roof structures, insulated canvas wall & ceiling envelopes and the privacy screens.

The project’s design strategy was driven by complex engineering processes to arrive at de-cluttered, highly optimized ecological structures.

Economic challenges included rationalizing structural and envelope costs while overcoming the complex rocky ridge topography and local climate conditions.

The ecological challenges were to create signature structures that at the same time sit harmoniously in their surroundings upon a visually exposed relief.

Roof Design

In tensile structure design, form and force are one.

The key challenge was in the tensile membrane roof design; maintaining a balance between clean geometry, organic form and architectural flow; where each impact on the other.  

It was agreed with the architects to separate the roofs into smaller structures; merging them gently into the landscape as separated elements, rather than fewer large continuous membranes (which on this site would have created a disruptive monolithic visual).

However, the increased number of outriggers this approach required (and their staggered arrangement) threatened to make the design busy and dysfunctional. Every time we changed an outrigger, it had a knock-on effect on the overall membrane and/or its surrounding house-box structural systems (eg: blocked walkways or obstructed views).   

We accomplished harmonious form-function through:

1. Expertise & Collaboration:

Our team of fabric structure designers, engineers and construction experts were able to solve complex problems drawing upon their diverse experience and practical skill sets while liaising with the appointed architects and other contractors.

2. Technology:

Iterative computer-aided design techniques were employed to interrogate and help our team to solve complex modelling aesthetics, shading, form-finding, engineering stresses, and general layout challenges.

Engineering

The shaping of the roof’s geometry was influenced by an accelerated and intensified wind that rushes down the valley and up the cliff.

We overcame the topographic funnelling effects, by shaping and engineering each unit’s tensile membrane and steel structure individually.

By adjusting a roof’s curvature and cable specifications we optimized each membrane’s Cp factor (shape coefficient) in order to limit the wind pressure impact. Each balcony then was extended to act as a further wind uplift damper.

Luxury Finish

From thread to weave, tone to touch.

We were commissioned to provide a bespoke canvas cladding to our tensile frames, inside and out. Our patterned and tensioned fabric walls and ceilings are joined with a stylish, water-tight lap-fold seam. The walls have an integrated dual weather and kicker flap running along the base keeping water out and facilitating the cleaning of floors. Our robust acrylic coated, woven polyester canvas with matt finish is easily washed (and even painted) ensuring an extended life span in the harsh African climate. Canvas corner trim and frame fixing details tie the walling envelope softly together into the hard substructure.

Eco Innovations

Ultra-lightweight performance

At Tenthouse Structures we define performance by three key criteria: safety, comfort and lifespan.

Safety

The Noka structures were designed to comply, engineered to perform to South African building code and local environmental conditions, steered by the European Design Guide for tensile structures.

Furthermore, a unique safety challenge was dealing with the electric storms common to the mountainous regions of the Limpopo province. As the tents penetrated above the surrounding tree canopy on an exposed ridgeline, we had to integrate lightweight visually acceptable flexible lightning rods into the peaks.

Comfort

We adopted both passive and low energy comfort design techniques.

Large openings in the envelope allow for user-controlled ventilation.

Whilst in intense heat and cold conditions the units can be fully sealed and efficiently air-conditioned due to the ultra-lightweight high performance insulated envelope. We employed a dual skin cladding with light PIR insulation sandwich.

Lifespan

In consideration of the durability of the Noka structures we addressed:
material selection, design return period and serviceability.

Technical textiles were carefully chosen with built-in anti-microbial agents, UV inhibitors, appropriate tensile constructions and of course natural aesthetics.

We simulated (both digitally and physically) structural and material behaviour over the intended design life of the units; in order to inform the design of the necessary attributes required to match, and indeed supersede, the extremities of our simulations.