Millions of pilgrims flock to the mosque in Medina al-Munawwarah, Saudi Arabia, each year as part of Hajj, the fifth pillar of Islam, a religious pilgrimage to Mecca and other holy sites that must be carried out by every able-bodied Muslim at least once in his or her lifetime. The Muslim lunar calendar is shifting the dates of Hajj toward hotter summer months, raising issues about keeping visitors cool. SEFAR® Architecture, Depew, N.Y., helped provide the shade for future pilgrims—250 huge umbrellas made from more than 1.5 million square feet of the company’s extra tough PTFE fabric. Each open umbrella is roughly 84 by 84 feet and 50 feet tall, providing the Medina Haram Piazza with an awe-inspiring environment that rivals displays of the grand-scale fabric artist Christo.
Shade fabric for this blistering hot climate had to withstand aggressive UV radiation, as well as possess extremely high tensile strength in strong wind, fire resistance, flexibility and appropriate light transmission. SEFAR Architecture, manufacturer of monofilament precision and ePTFE yarn fabrics, developed four actual-size prototypes of sand-colored fabric (white transmits too much light) with blue PTFE ribbon designs on the undersides for a beautiful decorative effect. The umbrellas, which completely shade a huge area when opened collectively, reduced ambient temperature by at least 8 degrees (C). Each umbrella can be closed within three minutes and the working parts are encased in an elegant narrow column.