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New retractable membrane for an open-air theater

Projects | October 1, 2017 | By:

The new retractable membrane for the Tecklenburg open-air theater, measuring 95 feet by 131 feet, can be opened and closed more quickly due to a powerful suction and pressure blower system that was installed during the renovation. Photo: Freilichtbühne Tecklenburg

The charming town of Tecklenburg, Germany, is home to the largest open-air musical theater in the country. Set against the backdrop of a medieval castle ruin, Freilichtbühne Tecklenburg e.V. stages operettas, musicals, concerts and other events.

The 2,300-seat theater features a retractable canopy designed and installed 25 years ago by consulting engineers IPL, now formTL Engineering, a Radolfzell, Germany-based designer of membrane structures. A quarter of a century later, it was time to replace the canopy, which had outperformed its service life of 15 to 20 years.

FormTL worked with CENO Membrane Technology, the company that constructed the first canopy, to create a new membrane. Because the original project had been done in 3-D and all the documents were archived, the job was greatly simplified. Designers were able to use the old plans to compare the measurements of
the disassembled membranes and fittings, and formTL was able to produce a new pattern for the membrane within a month.

PVC/PES Polyplan Type II was used for the membrane’s highly stressed cushions because of its ability to withstand more than 100,000 folds. The manufactured membranes were transported to the site and quickly installed.

The roof’s structure consists of six filigree cable girders from which five longitudinal rails are suspended. Six steel arches with a carriage to which the double-layered membranes are attached move along these rails. When the roof is extended, the membranes are inflated into cushions, making them wind resistant. When retracted, the membranes are stored in a garage-like structure. For more details, visit

Photo: R. Borgmann

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