MDT-tex, the go-to textile-architecture manufacturer and consultancy, is invited time and time again to partner with some of the world's leading architects. It's no wonder given the company's innovative outdoor structures and intelligent membranes.

Shaping outdoor space globally: with over 20 years in business, MDT-tex has established itself, with its innovative products and enviable projects, as a leading player in textile architecture. Shown here, its 'Type E Tulip' umbrella, Youghal, Ireland

Stretching the Limits | News

Shaping outdoor space globally: with over 20 years in business, MDT-tex has established itself, with its innovative products and enviable projects, as a leading player in textile architecture. Shown here, its 'Type E Tulip' umbrella, Youghal, Ireland

×

It wasn’t until I was 17 that I first had the pleasure of negotiating a guy rope.

You see, I didn’t come from one of those happy-camping families who took off into the great outdoors with regularity and gusto, regardless of climatic conditions. My folks favoured bricks-and-mortar architecture for their temporary holiday abodes. No tents or other textile structures for us. When I finally did get to sleep under canvas, it was on a wet Welsh hillside. Bracing would be the word to describe it.

When dyed-in-the-wool entrepreneur Markus Müller-Feist was 17, he was already designing and constructing outdoor umbrella structures that, in retrospect, would serve as prototypes for a game-changing family of innovative and highly architectural, smart-membrane products and, by extension, an iconic series of international projects, transforming the way we think about and experience outdoor space.

Space-shaping and place-making: MDT-tex partnered with respected Irish architect Sean Harrington to design and produce a bespoke, permanent installation of asymmetrical umbrellas in the heart of Dublin, which have in themselves become a landmark

Stretching the Limits | News

Space-shaping and place-making: MDT-tex partnered with respected Irish architect Sean Harrington to design and produce a bespoke, permanent installation of asymmetrical umbrellas in the heart of Dublin, which have in themselves become a landmark

×

His father, a professor at the University of Karlsruhe in Germany, was, in effect, his very first client, asking him to build a parasol for the family to use. His initial attempt was rejected. Undeterred, Müller-Feist, who had yet to finish school, worked on a new version and, recognising the potential his design had in commercial terms, advertised his services locally. Dozens of customers beat a path to his door. (‘It was a better way to earn money at that time that going to work in the local petrol station,’ he explains.)

The rest is history. Or, rather, the rest is MDT-tex, a leading innovator in textile architecture with over 20 years in business that’s regularly invited to partner with renowned architects globally to help add value to exterior space – defining it, staging it and generally making our encounters with it more memorable and pleasant.

Tight deadlines, tight infrastructural contexts: Dublin's Meeting House Square lies in the city's vibrant, but narrow-streeted, Temple Bar cultural quarter – all part of the challenge for MDT-tex's problem-solving team

Stretching the Limits | News

Tight deadlines, tight infrastructural contexts: Dublin's Meeting House Square lies in the city's vibrant, but narrow-streeted, Temple Bar cultural quarter – all part of the challenge for MDT-tex's problem-solving team

×

Gimme shelter
Sometimes innovation can perhaps be, well, too innovative, however. The company’s paradigm-shifting, tulip-shaped umbrella, available in standard sizes up to 6 x 6 metres, yet, in bespoke terms, scalable up to a truly impressive 15 metres, didn’t receive an overly positive response from the market at first. On home ground, at least. ‘No one in Germany was interested in it back in the early 1990s,’ explains Jessica Müller-Feist, MDT-tex co-founder. ‘They thought it was a stupid idea.’

But while the Müller-Feists were in business, they were certainly not in the business of giving up. Understanding the value of what they’d developed beyond mere utilitarian function – shade, cooling, rain protection and so on – they hit the road, building up a strong corporate client base stretching from the US to South Africa. Coca-Cola was one of their first big contracts. With the aid of a redesigned Hermès printing press, Markus Müller-Feist was able to demonstrate to the multinational how pinpoint-precise, large-width printing was possible, whose translucence (as opposed to one-sided printing) guaranteed impactful, high-visibility brand presence.

The Swiss town of Avenches was able to redefine its as a social space rather than a car-filled one thanks to MDT-tex's large canopy system, developed in cooperat marketplace ion with architects furrerjud

Stretching the Limits | News

The Swiss town of Avenches was able to redefine its as a social space rather than a car-filled one thanks to MDT-tex's large canopy system, developed in cooperat marketplace ion with architects furrerjud

×

Combine this with excellence in textile technology – MDT-tex from the start went for a none-too-easy individual textile coating – and it was clear that, much like their outdoor systems, the only way was up. The next few years would also see the company win an increasing number of high-end gastro and hotel clients, who, like their corporate ones, were impressed not only with the MDT-tex’s products but also its complete service offering. ‘It was such a big plus for our clients that we act like an agency, doing all the design and artworking in-house, plus, of course, all the manufacturing, textile-work and printing. We’re able to match any colour.’ With the expert team at MDT-tex also delivering and installing their systems around the world, often to the tightest of deadlines and the trickiest of infrastructural contexts, it was truly a case of plug and play.

An open palazzo courtyard becomes a temporary exhibitionary one, protected from the elements, at the Milan Furniture Fair via the sensitive installation of four 8 x 8-metre, custom-tailored MDT-tex tulip umbrellas

Stretching the Limits | News

An open palazzo courtyard becomes a temporary exhibitionary one, protected from the elements, at the Milan Furniture Fair via the sensitive installation of four 8 x 8-metre, custom-tailored MDT-tex tulip umbrellas

×

The right wedding dress
It’s not always plain-sailing, of course, but that’s what keeps things interesting. ‘It never rains in Saudi,’ says Jessica Müller-Feist, ‘but it did when we came to install our umbrella structures at the King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture. And then there was a sandstorm.’ (MDT-tex were handpicked by Oslo and New York-based Norwegian architectural office Snohetta to help define the recently opened venue’s exterior space by creating an architectural dialogue with the building.) The MDT-tex team was also under huge time pressure to have everything installed before the inauguration. A leisurely and protracted process it certainly wasn’t.

Respected Norwegian office chose MDT-tex when it came to shaping the exterior landscape of its new King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture in Saudi Arabia. The latter's pure-woven PTFE membrane provides ultra-high UV resistance

Stretching the Limits | News

Respected Norwegian office chose MDT-tex when it came to shaping the exterior landscape of its new King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture in Saudi Arabia. The latter's pure-woven PTFE membrane provides ultra-high UV resistance

×

MDT-tex’s track record in being able to come up with the goods, so to speak, while under pressure is clearly key to their continued success in working with big-name architects and big-budget clients. They’ve mastered the art of rapid idea-generation (they often go from phone call to concept presentation in less than ten days), fast mock-up and fast prototyping, giving a project’s stakeholders in a short space of time the ability to lay their hands on something close to the final, highly individualised product.

But top-drawer consultancy helps, too. ‘We really try to understand our customers, because if we don’t get their wishes, their problems, their geographical and cultural context, and their desired outcomes, then it’s like advising someone to buy the wrong wedding dress. It may look great, but it doesn’t work for them. All the decision-makers on the client side have our mobile numbers.’

'We act like an agency,' explains Jessica Müller-Feist. Design and artworking, along with manufacturing, textile-work and printing, is all conducted in-house at MDT-tex across its various international sites

Stretching the Limits | News

'We act like an agency,' explains Jessica Müller-Feist. Design and artworking, along with manufacturing, textile-work and printing, is all conducted in-house at MDT-tex across its various international sites

×

Size isn’t everything. But it helps
One happy bride, as it were, is respected Irish architect Sean Harrington, whose collaboration with MDT-tex on four highly sculptural, and frankly massive, umbrellas for Dublin’s lively Temple Bar district, resulted in a piece of iconic place-making. In the couple of years since their installation in Meeting House Square – a popular public space that, replete with stage, serves as cultural venue, marketplace and meeting point – the quartet of overlapping, 21-metre-high structures, each with a span of 14 by 11 metres when fully extended, have helped to define their spatial context – the literal fabric of MDT-tex’s products in-situ shaping the urban fabric of the vibrant quarter.

Precise, large-width, translucent printing from MDT-tex has helped secure the company's position as a branding specialist

Stretching the Limits | News

Precise, large-width, translucent printing from MDT-tex has helped secure the company's position as a branding specialist

×

While the automated opening of the umbrellas may appear effortless (a good thing too in these often rainy parts), exceeding their functional purpose by providing a kinetic entertainment to visitors, a huge amount of effort went into the project, with MDT-tex meeting Harrington’s exacting brief for asymmetric and tilting constructions down to the last detail. Jessica Müller-Feist again: ‘He had a very clear idea that they should look like columns. They need to function aesthetically when closed, too. But there was also the added challenge of the asymmetry. Every arm of the Dublin umbrellas is individually engineered.’

A showstopping 30-metre-wide production hall at the company's 10,500-square-metre manufacturing and storage site in Hardheim, Germany, means the delivery of projects on a truly impressive scale

Stretching the Limits | News

A showstopping 30-metre-wide production hall at the company's 10,500-square-metre manufacturing and storage site in Hardheim, Germany, means the delivery of projects on a truly impressive scale

×

This customised, bespoke approach to design, engineering and manufacturing is core competence of MDT-tex, one of which the owners are rightly proud. They’re not folk who are content with second best. When it came to the design of company’s showroom and offices near Lake Constance in the small swiss town of Tägerwilen, Markus Müller-Feist became de facto architectural consultant on the project, rejecting the architect’s original plans in favour of a more progressive design that was more expressive of the MDT-tex brand, had a stronger connection with its products, but at the same time was more inspirational as a place for co-workers. Meanwhile, the Hardheim site in Germany comprises over 10,500 square metres of production and storage space (the showstopper being a 30-metre wide production hall, home to two 25 tonne cranes, for truly scaled-up projects), with further hand-stitching, assembly and storage sites in the US, Latvia and Croatia.

MDT-tex founders Markus Müller-Feist (left)...

Stretching the Limits | News

MDT-tex founders Markus Müller-Feist (left)...

×

...and Jessica Müller-Feist (above): 'We really try to understand our customers, because if we don’t (...) then it’s like advising someone to buy the wrong wedding dress. It doesn’t work for them'

Stretching the Limits | News

...and Jessica Müller-Feist (above): 'We really try to understand our customers, because if we don’t (...) then it’s like advising someone to buy the wrong wedding dress. It doesn’t work for them'

×

Under the skin
From towering cranes to towering figures in the world of architecture. The recent 2015 edition of London’s Clerkenwell Design Week saw MDT-tex team up with celebrated architectural practice Grimshaw to develop a modular canopy system in the district’s St James’s Churchyard. The ultra-lightweight programme, whose component umbrella elements fit together to form a unified and eminently flexible structure, far quicker to install than existing canopy systems, will play host to Grimshaw’s ‘Elements’ exhibition during CDW. Just the latest in MDT-tex’s collaborations with big-name architects, this partnership saw the textile-structure specialists run a series of hands-on workshops with their client to come up with a solution that’s both architecturally impactful and structurally and technologically innovative. The central supporting columns, for example, also double as drainage for rainwater, something that the company, which has made sustainability one of its core values, is exploring for water-harvesting purposes in drier parts of the world.

An architectural highpoint of the 2015 edition of London’s Clerkenwell Design Week was a collaboration between MDT-tex and renowned office Grimshaw in the form of a modular canopy system in the district’s St James’s Churchyard

Stretching the Limits | News

An architectural highpoint of the 2015 edition of London’s Clerkenwell Design Week was a collaboration between MDT-tex and renowned office Grimshaw in the form of a modular canopy system in the district’s St James’s Churchyard

×

The innovation doesn’t stop there, however. MDT-tex has, for the past few years, been producing its own pure-woven PTFE, whose Teflon-like finish provides ultra-high UV resistance, supreme waterproofness and also sloughs off dirt. (Or sand, in the case of Saudi Arabia.) What’s more, they’ve recently held talks with the Ethiopian government to discuss the potential development of umbrella structures that would provide shelter for the homeless, while allowing them temporary access to the grid via built-in electrical sockets and charging ports.

And then there’s solar. The surface area of MDT-tex’s parasols, when opened, makes them ideal for harnessing the sun’s rays, meaning a redoubling of their eco-credentials: on the one hand producing energy and on the other saving it – the umbrella itself, with the strong sun protection it offers users, eschewing the need for air-conditioning. Now that’s a company truly stretching the limits of textile architecture.

The Irish climate – renowned for its enthusiastic variety – is no match for MDT-tex's robust and durable tulip umbrellas, installed here in the seaport of Youghal. Rainwater cleverly drains through the sructures' central masts

Stretching the Limits | News

The Irish climate – renowned for its enthusiastic variety – is no match for MDT-tex's robust and durable tulip umbrellas, installed here in the seaport of Youghal. Rainwater cleverly drains through the sructures' central masts

×

Related products

Related Profiles