An architectural canopy is a textbook example of melding form and function. When designing a canopy for your building, it’s tempting to start with the prettiest part first. After all, you probably have a mental picture of what you want to achieve. And even if you don’t, the visual aspects of an awning are usually what come to mind, because typically we don’t even notice the functional underpinnings.
But you have to save the dessert for last, and concentrate on building a proper foundation so your architectural canopy will not only look great but perform exactly as you wish for as long as you want.
The frame is your canopy’s skeleton and muscle.
Framing systems can range from very lightweight for easy portability to the toughest, sturdiest materials appropriate for even extreme conditions. Typical frames are aluminum or galvanized steel.
Several factors will affect which framing systems, fabrics and installation methods will serve you best. To design the most effective architectural canopy, you should think about:
- Whether or not it needs to retract.
- Whether it will be permanent, used seasonally or one-time temporary.
- How dirty it will get, which can affect both color and material choices.
- How wide it will be and how far out it will project.
- Municipal codes or building-specific rules or restrictions.
- Façade requirements, especially for retrofits, because the building must be able to comfortably support your awning.
- Expected lifespan.
Once you’ve established your framework you can cover it with a beautiful skin.
Not all “skin” materials work with all framing systems, and of course there are pros and cons to every framing material and fabric. You’ll have to decide which factors are most important to your canopy’s performance and appearance. And while budget considerations may play a role, too, you cannot expect an architectural canopy made of minimalist materials to withstand harsh conditions or heavy, extended use.
Woven acrylics are a good choice for lighter-duty applications, or you can use varying weights of vinyl — not the same vinyl material you may be familiar with that’s used for banners. Quality of thread used for stitching can greatly affect durability. And believe it or not, ink quality is a significant factor in determining how long your awning will continue to look like new.
You rarely see an awning that’s just a plain color or design, perhaps because awnings are highly visual by nature. The artistic possibilities are virtually limitless. Especially if you plan to use high-tech digital printing, you get a truly blank canvas because you can literally print any image anywhere on your canopy. You can let your imagination go wild, creating a detailed look that’s splashy or subtle. Digital images can be directly printed on your canopy material or printed separately on pressure-sensitive vinyl.
It all comes down to your overall goals and expectations.
Designing an architectural canopy begins with the end in mind. Why do you need it? Your canopy can actually provide all these practical benefits:
- Building entrance or individual business identification.
- Weather protection.
- Expanded sales, seating or special events area.
- Enhanced marketing — brand awareness or reinforcement as well as providing a thematic complement to advertising, store-front or interior graphics, even company vehicles.
- Exterior ornamentation – a purely decorative touch that adds individuality.
If you’re designing a portico-style architectural canopy, be sure to calculate necessary minimum height for vehicles to safely pass underneath.
When all these factors come together, the result is an architectural canopy that provides precisely the look and functionality you need. Consulting a professional awning expert to help sort out and weigh your options can save you time and frustration.
In the end, choosing a design and production company with extensive experience and a long-standing reputation for superior quality will ensure you get not only sound advice but careful, detail-oriented construction and installation.