A great golden gourd has materialized on Regents Canal in northeast London. For the next eight days, the inflatable creation will touch down at five different venues along the canal from Hackney Wick to Kings Cross, where it will invite local artists into its soft, playful belly to host live concerts, improvised comedy, and spoken word poetry, among other events. “AirDraft” by architects Thomas Randall-Page and Benedetta Rogers is the winning submission for this year’s Antepavilion: an annual competition co-organized by the Architecture Foundation and Shiva Ltd. to produce a public installation on the Hoxton Docks. Established just last year, the initiative has already made a splash as an experimental counter-weight to the more commercially-minded Serpentine Pavilion. By providing an opportunity for younger artists, architects, and designers to create a temporary structure on a modest budget of $32,000 (£25,000), the Antepavilion is a playful foray into new means of living and working together, with a critical edge. Last year’s winning entry by PUP architects—a rooftop hut disguised as an industrial air duct to subvert planning permission—set a bold precedent for AirDraft, which has nonetheless emerged as a true successor in the Antepavilion’s evolving ambition. For Antepavilion 2018, Randall-Page and Rogers have flown the coop of the Hoxton Docks. Their bulbous creation embraces the sinuous, unregulated vibrancy of the canal as an inflatable performance venue. Working in collaboration with Cameron Balloons, the Bristol-based purveyor of balloons, blimps, and other oxygenized joys, alongside London-based structural engineer AKT II, the pneumatic vessel emits a permanent golden aura that is highly conducive to flattering selfies. “More butternut squash than phallus,” according to Randall-Page, AirDraft takes after the work of artist Jeffrey Shaw and the inflatable architecture aficionados of 1970s, Ant Farm. Seemingly torn out from the pages of Ant Farm’s DIY pneumatic manual, Inflatocookbook, AirDraft emerged from its intense 10-week gestation period with remarkably clear vision, complemented by an impressive attention to detail. The entire structure can be deflated in 12 minutes (re-inflation takes half as long), which makes crossing under the canal’s many bridges a breeze. Meanwhile, ventilation and centrifugal fans keep the butternut buoyant without stealing the spotlight from the performers: “The fans can be turned down during events,” explained Rogers. The sunny squash is a striking visual contrast to its local industrial surrounds, but its warm inflatable enclave also serves a deeper purpose as a temporary events space for London’s vibrant yet precarious canal culture. A short stroll or sail along Regents reveals a plethora of waterborne businesses and houseboats, as well as the countless galleries, studios, and grassroots venues clustering around its banks. But as rent continues to climb, licensing laws tighten, and some fear the London houseboat dream is at risk of drying up, the AirDraft intends to “flag the importance of cultural institutions in danger,” according to Randall-Page. As part of their winning proposal, Randall-Page and Rogers organized an onboard event program that draws upon local (sub)cultural institutions, from theatre venues to nightclubs. Their eclectic list of collaborators includes Total Refreshment Centre, a staple of London’s emergent underground jazz scene that was forced into closure earlier this summer by Hackney Council. “If being able to pop-up and disappear is a way around these regulations, that’s great,” consents Randall-Page. “But we shouldn’t really have to seek out these loopholes in the first place.” With a “boat for a mother and an airship for a father,” according to it design duo, AirDraft is an ebullient, if existentially troubled, intervention into Hackney’s canal culture. The 2018 Antepavilion reflects through its hybrid, flexible, intimate and informal structure all that is precious, unique, and worth saving about north-east London’s canal culture. While not for those prone to seasickness, what it lacks in vertebrae it more than makes up for in vibrancy.
Posts tagged with "inflatable architecture":
There was a moment in the late 1960s when architects (almost always working in groups) wanted to literally lift their projects off the ground and allow them to float over the everyday landscape. Groups like Haus-Rucker-Co, the French Utopie group, and Ant Farm were all inspired by earlier experiments of Archigram, Cedric Price, Buckminster Fuller, and engineers like Frei Otto. Though these experiments were almost always created for gallery exhibitions or one-off installations (Ant Farm placed a large inflatable bubble at UC Berkeley to warn students about the dangers of pollution in 1970) these works continue to inspire architects and every decade they seem to get rediscovered by a new generation. A current exhibition The New Inflatable Moment at the Boston Society of Architects (BSA) is bringing the work back yet again and even cites a previous show, the 1998 exhibition and book The Inflatable Moment: Pneumatics and Protest in '68 by Marc Dessauce and The Architectural League of New York, for inspiration and precedent. The French historian of modernism Caroline Maniaque also wrote about inflatables in 2004 for a different generation. The BSA exhibition also highlights recent projects by Diller Scofidio + Renfro, Grimshaw, Anish Kapoor/Arata Isozaki, the late Otto Piene, and Norman Foster. But the exhibit also includes even newer projects by Graham Stevens, Chico MacMurtrie, and Berlin’s raumlabor. The idea of these projects also includes an element of idealistic utopianism and there is nothing wrong, at the moment, with idealism in architecture. The show still has a few weeks to run (through September 30th) so if you're in Boston visit the BSA Space (290 Congress Street, Boston, MA, 02210). Admission is free. Opening hours: 10:00 am to 6:00 pm on weekdays, and 10:00 am to 5:00 pm on weekends and holidays.
Boston's BSA Space is exploring the evolution of inflatables at its newest exhibit, The New Inflatable Moment, on display through September. The exhibition was inspired by The Inflatable Moment: Pneumatics and Protest in ’68, a 1998 book and exhibition by Marc Dessauce and The Architectural League of New York, which explored the relationship between inflatable technology and utopia. “With this exhibition, we revisit the moment of the 1960s explored by Dessauce to suggest that utopian thought is re-emerging today in architecture and art as evidenced by projects involving inflatables,” said curators Mary Hale and Katazyrna Balug in the exhibit description. From the advent of the hot air balloon to the studies of inflatable houses on Mars, the evolution of inflatable structures will be displayed in an interactive timeline created by Boston-based design agency Certain Measures. The timeline provides context for the different projects on display, showing them adjacent to corresponding sociopolitical moments in history. A series of installations, photos, videos, and models will also populate the exhibit, depicting the ways inflatables have embodied the radical and experimental thinking of architects and artists throughout history. Work by the likes of Buckminster Fuller, Ant Farm, Diller Scofidio + Renfro, and many others, will explore the experimental designs of this bubble-like architecture as well as the advancements in technology that are pushing inflatables into the future, and into space. “The exhibition reveals some of the most visionary architectural minds working with new methods of display and communication,” said Laura Wernick, chair of the BSA Foundation, on the exhibit’s web page. “Its premiere at BSA space will empower designers to similarly think and work in new ways to create a better future and motivate the general public to believe in it.” An opening reception for the exhibit will be held on Wednesday, May 17 at 6 p.m. The exhibition is currently open and runs through September 3, 2017. For more information about the exhibit please visit the BSA Space website here.
Architects are often maligned for exhibiting inflated egos. Rarely, however, do they have the chance to create inflatable architecture. That could change thanks to a course in New York City run by Jesse Seegers that aims to inform people about the potential of pneumatic and inflatable volumes and how to realize it. Starting on June 6 and taking place in the evening, Seegers will first allow people to experience inflatable spaces while teaching them about the history of the typology. Students will be able to experiment with different materials and techniques including heat welding, tape, and constraining the volumes with ropes and other means. Speaking of his motivation for running the course, Seegers spoke to AN and explained that his interest in inflatables stemmed from his architecture thesis at Princeton University. "Since the 2008 crisis, architecture has mainly become a unit, a means to transform one unit of currency into multiple units of currency," he said. In his thesis, Seegers argued that "During the financial crisis an equally devastating architectural crisis occurred, pulling the curtain away from the alignment of architecture and capitalism" and that architecture itself "has become a form of capitalism." Seegers added that architecture has a tendency to cater to long-term investment opportunities that guarantee return. Hence, structures are seen as commodities, "abdicating their claims to any cultural novelty or spatial experience," whereas inflatable structures, which lack conventional architecture's permanency are "divorced from the whims of capital." "Inflatables deny the normal structure that buildings perpetuate," Seegers continued. "So to have temporary structures that could pop up in a few minutes or a few hours and then go away...they're an excuse for social activities to go on and it's not about the return of investments of a long-term structure." In 2014, his thesis took form, at the Potlach Pavilion in New York. Here, strangers were invited to bring gifts for other strangers, creating a socially active space, amplified in many respects by its temporal nature. https://vimeo.com/66875297 Now a spatial practitioner and the Associate Editor of Digital Projects at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation, Seegers hopes to teach how the temporal qualities of inflatable volumes can be utilized. He noted that people rarely experience inflatable pneumatic volumes, let-alone get the chance to create them. Seegers also spoke how inflatable spaces can come across as living, breathing organisms, much like how German firm Plastique-Fantastique have been showcasing. "[The spaces] really lower people's inhibitions," he said. "It's a nice etherial space to hang out in and dance in." Ultimately, they're are "meant to be fun" Seegers said laughing, adding that "they're really fun to throw parties in." His course consists of five sessions which run from 7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.. The course is offered in preparation for an exhibit including a large-scale inflatable that will open at Pioneer Works (who are hosting the course) in September. Further details of the course can be found here.
The Templehof Airport in South Berlin has a history of giving. In 1948, Operation Vittles, also known as the "Berlin Airlift," saw American aircraft carry 80 tons of food into Tempelhof. Shortly after, the famed Operation Little Vittles saw renowned "Candy Bomber" Gail Halvorsen drop candy via parachute to children living nearby. Many pilots soon followed in his footsteps. The airport is now no longer in service, though more recently, it was used as one of Europe's largest refugee camps. This inspired local architecture firm Plastique Fantastique to install an over-sized inflatable dinghy, reminiscent of those many refugees had been using to get to the continent, at the airport. Called LIVEBOAT, the firm, who are well known for their inflatable installations, said that dingy offers space for dialogue surrounding the refugee crisis. The boat serves as a visual pun of being a dinghy at an airport is big enough for people to walk inside. Visitors can walk through the boat and on their way discover multi-lingual sound bites of Homer's Odyssey as well as "fragments of refugee experiences." https://vimeo.com/133220577 Started in 1999, Plastique Fantastique comprises two architects, a set designer, a sound artist, a sculptor, and an intern. As their name suggests, plastic is the material of choice, selected due to its low cost and only needing a fan to form a space. "The fact that we used plastic, was just usually the fact that we had no money," said co-founder Marco Canevacci. Initially, in their first works, they sought to create warm places to stay through the use of a hot-air blower. Since their founding though, their work has, in many ways, continued to expand. Drawing on the pneumatic and inflatable volumes found in Ant Farm's Inflatocookbook, they rely on their diverse knowledge base of sound artistry, set design, and sculpture to integrate contemporary mediums into their work. https://vimeo.com/164302567 One project, SOUND of LIGHT is a notable example of this. The synesthetic sculpture analyses and interprets sunlight, "dynamically" transforming it into audio frequencies. Situated in the former music pavilion in Hamm, Germany, a high-end digital camera placed on top of the structure films the sky above, dividing it into red, green, blue and cyan, magenta, yellow. Commonly known as "RGB" and "CMY" this selection is derived from how colors are formed on-screen and in print (with black the only color missing). Subsequently, the two groups of three colors "receive different frequencies and convert them from visible to audible sensory input." To produce the sound, woofers placed at the bottom of each color column turn the space into a "giant vibrating loudspeaker." "Visitors can also discover their own concert by changing their point of view—an individual spectrum," the firm says on their website. https://vimeo.com/110137909 Sound is once again a key component of one of the latest works, BREATHING VOLUME. Breathing walls constantly swell and retract, giving the impression of being inside a living, breathing organism. Subwoofers at the back "transform the pulsing bass frequencies into the soul of the organism," while four synchronized ventilators work alongside to induce the movement of the walls and sense of breathing. https://vimeo.com/142884817 Another project, installed in 2011 in Neukölln, not far from Templhof, aims to "embrace the Passage’s "waistline" and façade". Called RINGdeLUXE, the inflatable golden ring wraps an archway as part of the "48 hours Neukölln" art festival. https://vimeo.com/25395420 RETTUNGSRING (lifesaver) is a ring that, instead of clinging to a building, floats on the river river Spree in Berlin's Treptow district. "Once inside of the structure, the visitor enjoyed the full experience of walking, sitting and relaxing on the water." https://vimeo.com/14102419 Those interested can further explore their diverse body of work here.