23 September 2015
Architectural Association, London
Following the inflatable tradition initiated by groups and individuals such as Eventstructure Research Group, Graham Stevens, Arthur Quarnby or Archigram, we are interested in the space generation capacity that enclosed gas has as an alternative tectonic for architectural creation. The work of Unit 4 – FLOAT – during the three weeks of AA Summer School 2015 converged upon the possibilities contained in Lighter Than Air structures and artefacts to enable alternative ways of social interaction and urban activation.
While urbanity is typically defined by hard and heavy matter placed in space, the activation of that space just depends on the contingency it contains; on the events that happen inside. Our aim was to activate ultra light material by enclosing a lighter than air gas within its boundaries. This gas can take the form of helium or heated air, which has a lower density than the atmospheric air surrounding the membrane. This physical principle will make the structure float in the air, providing a new space between the ground and itself for social interaction.
The simplicity of production and the economy of materials allowed for the proliferation of prototypes and structures that made the students achieve a high dexterity in this type of tectonic production. While our original intention was to create one single structure that could house the final party of the AA Summer School by July 24, some unplanned performances arose over the course of the first two weeks of July while playing with pneumatics that subdivided the research in two complementary research topics, which each produced parallel results. ‘The Jellyfish’ was an ultra-light structure made out of clear plastic membranes, which floated over the AA terrace to facilitate social interaction beneath it during the day of the final presentations. On the other hand, the ‘hard inflatable’ explored the capacity of generating pneumatic structures with a hard panelled surface that will ultimately provide new unexplored tectonic properties to pneumatic structures.
The result of both explorations deepened the ongoing research of the tutors, which focuses on pressurised structures. The work of the summer school unit advanced what we consider to be state of the art pneumatic structures, which in turn opens new research paths that may eventually generate further tectonic products of inhabitation and urban interaction.
For more information: