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A tensile structure by the sea

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Though Riad Shakeer, owner of Calypso Marine Canvas Ltd. and Calypso Fabric Architecture Caribbean Ltd. in Chaguanas, Trinidad, has spent most of his career fabricating marine canvas products, he and his niece Neala Bhagwansing have recently ventured into the lightweight structures market segment. Their first major project, in 2006, was a 6,000-square-foot tensile structure installed at the Crews Inn Hotel & Conference Center in Trinidad. Shakeer enlisted the help of Harry Daughtery of H.B. Daughtery Consulting Engineers and Mark Welander of Fabricon LLC to design and build what was to be the first tensile structure in the Caribbean built by a local company. The project was installed between four buildings—a restaurant, a bank, a customs building and a gift shop.

Shakeer and his team encountered multiple challenges, including the fact that the soil on the marine end of the project was only 6 feet deep, so they created a bed of concrete in which to anchor the column on that side. Creating a structure large enough to satisfy the client, given the parameters of the project, was another issue. “The owner wanted maximum floor space but the roofs of the adjacent buildings hung over into the space, and in order to clear it we would have lost 10 feet of floor space, and he didn’t want that,” Shakeer says. “Harry and Mark suggested we go through the roof with the columns. I said: ‘Can we do that?’” They could and they did.

Sigrid Tornquist is a freelance author and editor based in St. Paul, Minn. She is also the associate editor of InTents magazine.

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