Case Study: Ontario’s Celebration Zone

Case Study


The Pan American Games are the world’s third largest international multi-sport Games – surpassed in size only by the Summer Olympics and the Asian Games. Toronto, Ontario was the host city for the 2015 Games which ran from 10th July – 16th August.

In partnership with the Ontario Tourism Marketing Partnership Corporation (OTMPC), the Government of Ontario commissioned the construction of a Celebration Zone to highlight Ontario’s incredible diversity, culture and heritage during the Games. The Celebration Zone would be accessible and free for the public. It would showcase Ontario tourism, business, sport, culture, innovation and achievements through experiential programming including live entertainment featuring Ontario artists, interactive exhibits, culinary demonstrations and tourism information.


Case Study

The Brief

Two iconic, large-scale, temporary structures were required to house the events taking place at the Celebration Zone but tight time constraints for the site installation and tear down periods created a challenge for the design team. This ruled out the option for the normal temporary pavilion type build. Tectoniks was therefore approached by EllisDon, the construction company responsible for the delivery of the Zone, to work with Hariri Pontarini Architects (HPA), Thornton Thomasetti and Blackwell Structural Engineers on the design, build and installation of two large inflatable pavilions featuring our proprietary, high-pressure inflatable technology. The two pavilions would cover areas of 10,000 square feet and 3,000 square feet. They would be constructed entirely from coated textiles and would contain no rigid structural elements – pushing the limit of what is achievable with inflatable structures.

The Celebration Zone would be situated at a stunning location on Toronto’s harbour front close to historic buildings such as the CN Tower. The quality of the design and construction of the pavilions, therefore, had to be exceptional. We would have just just 10 weeks to design and manufacture the two pavilions at our factory in Shrewsbury, Shropshire. Testing the structures at our the factory would be required before shipping them to Toronto where, despite their size, they would have to be erected on site in just 2 days in the week running up to the start of the Games.

HPA’s vision for the pavilions included: “The scale of these inflatable structures will be monumental, at times reaching 50 feet in height. Curvilinear flowing openings along the structures’ sides will create a ‘lightness’ to the structures; taking advantage of the summer mood. These arched openings will frame dramatic views, facilitate access and circulation, and create a dynamic vantage point for the celebratory events.”

Ronald Holgerson - President and CEO of Ontario Tourism Marketing Partnership Corporation

Final weekend for Ontario’s Celebration Zone – congrats to the best team ever – what an incredible group of experts!

Case Study

The Solution

The design that developed comprised two structures made up of a series of span-wise inflatable arches, interspersed with longitudinal, interconnected ‘pillows’ – inflated to the same pressure as the arches. Two types of fire retardant textiles were used in their construction – a white, opaque textile was used for the arches whilst a translucent textile was used for the pillows in order to provide the opportunity for creating interesting effects with internal lighting.

Following discussions with the planning authorities it was determined that the pavilions would need to satisfy the requirements of the Ontario Building Code (OBC2012) in addition to local codes for fire safety. Since OBC2012 included no design load data for the forms of the proposed pavilions, it was agreed that the appropriate sections of ASCE 7-10 (‘Minimum Design Loads for Buildings and Other Structures’) would be adopted.

In order to satisfy the various codes it was apparent that we would need to develop an accurate computer model for predicting the deflections of the pavilions when subjected to the various load cases prescribed and for determining the resulting membrane stresses.

Finite Element models were constructed for the two pavilions using structural data and material properties from our own research and testing archives. Scaled test sections of the structures were manufactured and tested to verify the predictions of the analysis. Using this approach we were able to quickly optimise the design of the structures, making them as slender as possible whilst maintaining confidence in their structural performance.

The flowing, organic forms of the pavilions meant that they would be completely asymmetrical, with no repetition or mirroring of any of the fabric panels they would be made from. This meant that a huge number of unique patterns would have to be generated, cut and fabricated in a very short space of time. A detailed CAD surface model was created for each pavilion. Using our own software, developed in-house, each of the 15,000 unique 3D panels making up the pavilions was converted into a 2D cutting pattern complete with ID number, alignment marks and seam allowances.

Controlling the flow and fabrication of such a large number of unique components required highly effective planning and quality control to ensure that every one of the thousands of panels was dimensionally accurate and assembled in the correct sequence. Over 40 miles of welded seams had to be precisely controlled and checked for structural integrity and air tightness.

Case Study

The Outcome

Despite the tight deadline and demanding specifications Tectoniks delivered and installed the pavilions on time and within budget. Over the 38 days of the Games the pavilions hosted more than 500 live performances and presentations and attracted more than 400,000 visitors. During this time the peak recorded wind speed reached 51mph. The pavilions performed exactly as predicted with deflections well within the limits prescribed.

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