In the interest of getting students to build physical things, three years ago, USC introduced Top Fuel, a week-long design-build workshop accompanied by lectures, exhibitions, and panels. This year’s workshop, “Filters Funnels Flows,” wrapped up earlier this week. It focused on pneumatic (aka inflatable) structures, teaching students about the “inseparable relation between form and performance of pneumatic systems.” Indeed, produce the wrong form here (or material, or structure) and the piece doesn’t inflate. Students also explored lighting, temperature, and other environmental issues.
Student teams of eight produced three different structures. The first, “Sheer Pressure,” located on the lawn in front of Watt Hall, was constructed with pneumatics sewn into a double-skinned fabric dome. The second, “cellul/arch,” located inside the courtyard of Harris Hall, featured a tensile structure using lozenge-shaped inflatable bladders to create a structural skin. The third, “Pneus Bridge,” made up of a series of linked pneumatic tubing cylinders, rose over a pedestrian bridge between Watt and Harris Halls.