Thursday, 6 October 2016

Inflatable Architecture

by Zita Edwards

The Ark Nova
When someone first mentions architecture, buildings and structures what do you immediately imagine? Perhaps something concrete, rigid, precise and sharp, but definitely not inflatable. Inflatable architecture is usually perceived as novelty, choosing aesthetic over function, yet these structures are a reality. Moving away from the conventional geometric forms of modernist architecture, there has been an increase in inflatable natural forms in our cities. This freedom in design is expressed mainly through the design of temporary structures, art installations and pavilions. The opportunities these structures present are endless; the range of colours, the unique forms, the mobility, and sheer scale can all be used as an advantage. The bright eccentric colours are an asset to our cities and could completely change our skylines if we reimagine the high rise blocks as natural textile forms. Pavilions and temporary concert halls bring the community together, using structures, art and planning to alter our social interactions; one example being the Ark Nova, a concert hall sent as a gift from the Swiss to the victims from the earthquake at Fukushima. Whilst not your typical bilateral aid, this project was designed to bring the Lucerne music festival to Japan, connecting communities once again through the arts. This 500-seater concert hall was designed to be mobile, travelling between communities and offering concerts and plays. The structure is very durable and light, making it perfect for the job, and its quirky design brought warmth to the barren landscapes. 

Tokyo Dome
The combination of durable textiles and resins can create very strong lightweight structures, for example the Millennium Stadium, whilst not entirely inflatable; its textile exterior is lighter in weight than the air inside it. For larger scale buildings architects have adopted the use of textiles as a very versatile material and it is now quite common especially amongst stadiums to see an inflatable style supported by resins and beams.  The fusion between these natural forms and the sleek sharp lines of the city could create a very different skyline to what we already have. 

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