Inflatable Architecture: Then & Now

Inflatable Architecture: Then & Now

Anomalies issue

During the ‘60s and early ‘70s, a collective of architects forever changed the way we envision the built environment. As a counterculture against the rationalism of Modernism, ‘Inflatable Architecture’, was born.

Inflatables were used as a way to critique political issues and test new ideas.  For example, the in the Clean Air Pod project by Ant Farm brought to light the effect of air quality and pollution on the environment.  Cushicle, was a nomadic, fully equipped portable unit designed by Archigram. It started to rethink the city as a living organism inhabited by nomadic dwellers.

(1)“Clean Air Pod” by Ant Farm, in UC Berkeley 1970
(2)“Suitaloon” by Archigram, in UK 1967

These utopian structures blurred the boundaries between art and architecture, and shifted the conversation around architecture to one about temporality, transportability, experimentation, and low cost. They present a fully immersive environment, completely detached from the outside world, lightweight and devoid of 90 degree angles. For all these transgressive reasons, they have been continuously explored, being vastly influential and a huge source of inspiration in every single design field.

(3) “Instant City” by Archigram, in UK 1969
(4) “Poetic Cosmos of the Breath” by Tomas Saraceno, in Essex, UK 2007

The first prototypes challenged the idea of space. These structures expanded, contracted, vibrated, and were sometimes scented, transforming like clouds, qualities that now seem more relevant than ever.  

 

(5) “Villa Rosa” by Coop Himmelb(l)au, 1968
(6) “Serpentine Gallery Pavilion” by Rem-Koolhaas and Cecil Balmond, in London 2006

Inflatables continue to push the boundaries of architecture, art, and product design. From its conception, they began a conversation about immersive experiences, wearable technology, and revealed phenomenological qualities in a very different way. Their inherent softness, anti-gravity and playfulness, as well as the possibility of experimenting with new materials, is something that continues to excite us today.

(7) ”Blow chair” by De Pas, D'Urbino, Lomazzi & Scolari for Zanotta, in Italy 1967
(8) “Chippensteel chairs” by Oskar Zieta, in Switzerland 2010

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