Focal adhesions (FAs) form at the site of contact between the leading edge of a cell and the extracellular matrix; they originate from focal complexes of integrins, talin and focal adhesion kinase, which then mature into FAs through the addition of other factors and assembly of actin bundles. In the lung, alveolar epithelial cells (AECs) are responsible for gas exchange and are exposed to considerable mechanical forces, such as strain during breathing and shear stress caused by blood flow. Jonathan Jones and colleagues, therefore, reasoned that the mechanical requirements of the lung might be reflected in the adherence of individual lung epithelial cells, and on page 3746, they investigate this further in cultured primary AECs. Interestingly, they find that in some cells, FAs are arranged in two concentric circles, one FA ring that is located at the cell periphery (pFAs) and another located centrally in the cell (cFAs). In addition, when AECs are plated onto micropatterned surfaces, assembled cFAs mirror the cell shape. Furthermore, cFAs associate with actin arrays and with keratin filaments and, unexpectedly, are more dynamic than pFAs, as assessed by fluorescence recovery after photobleaching. The authors also show that cFA assembly requires plectin, because its depletion abolishes the double-ring arrangement of FAs with a concomitant reorganisation of the cytoskeleton. Therefore, the mechanical environment in the lung might give rise to unconventional FAs in AECs with unique composition and functions.