University of Portsmouth – Portland Building


Midas Construction Ltd




Studio Four Architects



Interconnected Hypar Fabric Canopies

Formerly used as a School of Architecture, the Portland Building was designed by Sir Colin Stansfield-Smith in the 1990’s. In 2014 the building required complete remodelling and refurbishment by University of Portsmouth to accommodate new schools for Business, Civil Engineering and Information Services, with Studio Four architects acting as lead consultants on the new scheme.

Our Solution

A key success of the redevelopment included bringing an external, under-utilised courtyard into use with resurfacing and new tensile fabric canopy shelters. One of our pre-designed fabric canopies Playsail-4P-500 was used to create a series of six simple hypar fabric canopies manufactured from Type 2 PVC fabric and measuring 4.7m x 4.7m in plan were tensioned to shared posts. The substantial posts rising from the ground are made from galvanised mild steel, linking the individual fabric elements into a much larger modular structure.


The structure as a whole is reminiscent of ship masts and sails – and it not only provides shelter to extend the usable external space but also helps to create a new identity for the Portland building. We hope this architectural flourish is one that Sir Colin Stansfield Smith would have approved of!

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Ben Ainslie Racing HQ


Ben Ainslie Racing




HGP Architects


T A Colbourne




Fabric Cladding, ETFE & Retractable Solar Blind Installation

Over the past 12 months, a new landmark has arrived on the Portsmouth shoreline – Land Rover BAR’s headquarters, a building which will play host to a team that is making a bid to win sailing’s top prize. Developing a yacht and crew good enough to enter and win the America’s Cup requires a multi-million-pound investment.

The Brief

Using modern methods of construction – and with technologies incorporated into the design to seek carbon neutral credentials – Ben Ainslie Racing sought to commission a home that brings together the three key functions of boat design and team training; boat building, a visitor and education centre. HGP Architects who designed the Spinnaker Tower, were commissioned to design and deliver a unique and functional building on the Camber site in Portsmouth.

Base Structures was asked initially by HGP Architects to provide a semi-transparent fabric cladding wrap to stretch around a robust structure of a combination of glass reinforced concrete and glazing with the fabric having the capacity to be externally back lit.

As designs developed, Base were also commissioned to provide a triple skin ETFE cushion insulated atrium roof system to provide a high level of light through into the central core of the building, together with an internal retractable blind system to handle solar gain and glare.

The Team

Hamish Calder – Ben Ainsley Racing
Matthew Williams – Architect, HGP Architects
Vivienne Conway – Architect, HGP Architects
Kevin Hemmings – Architect, Base Structures
Fraser Shirley – Project Manager, Base Structures


Ferrari Soltis 86 fabric mesh was specified for the external vertical cladding to allow a degree of transparency both sides, with the roof panels using a sold PVC Mehler 7211 fabric to allow for drainage. The ETFE triple layer system provided by Vector Foiltec, achieves a U value of 1.96 W/m2k with a light transmittance of 87%.


“Home of Ben Ainslie Racing Built to BREEAM excellent standards, a purpose-built facility housing all of the team’s activities from design to sailing, sports science to marketing – a showcase for sport, innovation, technology and sustainability in the heart of Portsmouth.”

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