There’s been something of a renaissance lately in inflatable architecture. In the past few years alone, this ephemeral typology has been at Collective Design Fair, Performa 17, and the Park Avenue Armory. Inflatables emerged in the 1960s as a means of expressing dissatisfaction with established cultural norms about life, work, and society. They were seen as potentially revolutionary structures that allowed for experimentation with space in order to influence social, psychological, and physical cognition through the built environment. Inflatables were originally invented by the U.S. military with Cornell aeronautical lab engineer Walter Bird to deploy radio antennae in 1948. Bird, often referred to as the father of the field, is credited for taking this military technology and popularizing it in 1959 by collaborating with Paul Weidlinger on an inflatable roof for the Boston Arts Center Theater. In the ’60s and ’70s, when techno-optimism about the future reached its peak, Buckminster Fuller proposed a massive dome over Manhattan, while Frei Otto envisioned one to shelter 40,000 people in the Arctic Circle. What came next in "inflatotecture" was symptomatic of the counterculture era, which viewed it as a way to construct space for dissent and experimentation while taking advantage of lighter, stronger construction methods and new audiovisual technologies. Ant Farm, a San Francisco–based architecture studio, designed inexpensive and disposable structures out of vinyl for counterculture “happenings,” and anyone attending them could buy the group’s Inflatocookbook, a comic detailing step-by-step how to make one’s own enclosure (a practice common among collectives to disseminate information and design about inflatables). Other contemporaries included the U.K.'s Archigram, Italy's Archizoom, and Germany-based Haus-Rucker-Co.—all of whom envisioned inflatable architecture as a way to explore theories about spatial production, social organization, and consumption. Experimental inflatable architecture continues to be a form that designers use to examine contemporary social problems and to radically play with form and space for its own sake. The following projects stretch the medium to its limits, showing how the next generation of inflatables can generate new experiences. Jesse Seegers Looking to practice new forms of architecture outside of the traditionally accepted profession, New York-based designer Jesse Seegers employs the term “spatial practice,” a framework to create structures that draw from architectural knowledge but are equally related to other disciplines. For example, the Potlatch Pavilion was an ethereal inflatable for a gift exchange party, referencing the Pacific Northwest indigenous American tradition where one’s status is derived from how much you can give away, rather than how much wealth you possess. Here, the inflatable was deployed to “construct alternative systems of political economy.” Seegers’s recent projects include a temporary yoga space called Yoga Dome, which premiered at the opening of Sky Ting Yoga; an installation at a Pioneer Works exhibition on Ant Farm; a concert backdrop for musician SOPHIE’s live tour; and an inflatable landscape for musician Oneohtrix Point Never’s M.Y.R.I.A.D. concert at New York’s Park Avenue Armory. In 2017, Seegers helped French, Los Angeles–based architect François Perrin bring Reyner Banham and François Dallegret’s 1965 conceptual drawing The Environment Bubble to life as a site-specific installation for dance workshops in Brooklyn Bridge Park and Central Park as part of Performa 17. Alex Schweder “An inflatable space in process speaks to the bodies we have. It’s a fleshier, time-based architecture,” said Alex Schweder. The self-proclaimed performance architect began working with inflatables in 2005 at the American Academy in Rome, where his first blow-up installation, Sick Building Sequence, encapsulated feathers floating inside of a translucent plastic “room.” Since then, his inflatables have traversed Collective Design Fair, Tel Aviv Museum of Art, the Venice Architecture Biennale, Tate Britain, and Performa 17. These include a “room” with photosensitive fur, an inflatable hotel inside of a cherry picker, a floor-to-ceiling mass that collapses and expands into and away from itself, and a spiderlike robot that inflates and deflates to reconfigure space on a dance floor. What’s next? Schweder is working with a team of international artists on a traveling show that responds to László Moholy-Nagy’s Mechanized Eccentric, which will debut at the Bauhaus 100th anniversary next year. Seattle Design Nerds Formed in 2014 as a volunteer nonprofit organization dedicated to designing for the public realm, the group is officially the Seattle-based chapter of the international Design Nerds Society. Known for their inflatables, Seattle Design Nerds is a multidisciplinary collab started by Jeremy Reeding and Trevor Dykstra. The pair works with other local architects, designers, and artists on public interest projects to “make Seattle a little more awesome.” True to their mission, Reeding and Dykstra’s first inflatable was a large-scale installation for the 2014 Seattle Design Festival Block Party, a pop-up space shaped like a giant monster and filled with random objects for play. The team veered into the conceptual realm with The Gas Trap, a performance work where a car's tailpipe seemingly fills the inflatable to illustrate our dependence on gasoline. Last year they dreamed up an installation at the Seattle Art Museum's Olympic Sculpture Park composed of eight cuddly, inflatable orbs that change color when bopped. For the 2017 Seattle Design Festival Block Party, the group envisioned an illuminated inflatable mural crafted by visitors at the event with Velcro pixels. Their latest work for Cooper Hewitt’s Design with the Other 90% features a giant egg-shaped inflatable that will debut at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Discovery Center in Seattle in mid-September. Nicolas KK A young Nicolas KK grew up in Brazil in a family of hot air ballooners. From these beginnings, he developed an innate understanding and appreciation of the form. Putting his “family stuff” to good use, he started making his own blow-ups while studying industrial design at the Maryland Institute College of Art. That trajectory has continued through collaboration with digital, audio, and light artists in a shared studio in Bushwick, Brooklyn, called Future Space. Inspired by the inflatables of the 1960s and ’70s, Nicolas KK produces experimental structures by applying his expertise in computational design. His digitally driven experimental performance pieces create “dynamic” qualities and always include a programmable element that directly responds to existing digital infrastructures or naturally occurring biomimetic systems. Nicolas KK plans to study Integrative technologies and architectural design research at the University of Stuttgart in Germany, where he will continue to work with inflatables and collaborate with other artists on projects that respond to the emerging computational environment. In December, New York's New Museum will debut his work in an online exhibition described as “the original live desktop theater internet television show.” Pneuhaus Matt Muller, Augie Lehrecke, and Levi Bedall spearhead the Rhode Island-based design collective Pneuhaus dedicated to the mastery of all things inflatable, specifically spatial designs, temporary structures, contemporary art, and large-scale installations. It all started at Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) in 2014 when Muller and Lehrecke designed a handful of different inflatables inspired by Art Farm’s Inflatocookbook. The university hired them to continue to explore those ideas and design a space for the school’s annual design conference. Soon after, Beddall joined Muller and Lehrecke when they got their first professional commision to design-build and perform a circus for the RISD Museum. Since then, the trio has imagined transient spaces for Spotify, Burning Man, and Brown University. Ranging from inflatable fabric prisms built around the fundamental properties of light to inflatables outfitted with pinhole cameras, their growing list of projects develop as iterations of previous works. Their most recent project, Compound Camera no. 2, is a new iteration of the pinhole camera inflatable dome as a giant tunnel at the LUMA Projection Arts Festival in Binghamton, New York.
Posts tagged with "Jesse Seegers":
At Collective Design, inflatable landscapes, spinning playgrounds, and other architectural highlights
AN’s editors toured the 6th edition of The Collective Design Fair at the Skylight Clarkson North this morning. At the fair known for its creative installations, we strolled through aisles of booths occupied by design-focused galleries and site-specific creations by local designers and museums. Several, highlighted below, walk that dazzling line between art, design, and architecture. Natural Workshop by Jesse Seegers and Brook Landscape Tucked behind the show lies an ephemeral playground by Jesse Seegers surrounding a forested landscape by Brook Landscape. Seegers describes the process as “inflatable spaces I design, make the patterns for, cut out, and do physics simulations, digitally, to see what the finished design will look like.” The actualized forms are inflated by a constant stream of air that inflates three "breathing" plastic bellies. “I intentionally designed very simple forms,” explained Seegers. “This one is a standard tube, while the other two are tapered, which exaggerates the perspective.” VIP lounge by Leonidas Trampoukis and Eleni Petaloti of LOT office for architecture Though it is called the VIP lounge, founding partner of LOT and Objects of Common Interest, Leonidas Trampoukis, would describe the topography of glass blocks and slabs of acrylic his firm created as “more an installation.” Fashioned from translucent cuboids from Glass Block Warehouse Inc. and glossy umber-hued acrylic by Plaskolite, the purely decorative furnishings exude whimsical and textural vocabulary. My Reality by Crosby Studios Harry Nuriev, founder of Crosby Studios, is heavily influenced by growing up in Moscow. His Collective booth is lined by larger than life photos of his childhood apartment complex, a place he left at just 10 years old. While he practices primarily in New York City, the artist and architect draws inspiration from his formative years, in this case, the nostalgic memory of the traditional carousels of his younger years. Nuriev reinterpreted his childhood playground as a vibrant purple roundtable that spins in circles, a symbolic gesture to his formative years and inspiration. The Dream by Fernando Mastrangelo Inspired by Henri Rousseau’s painting The Dream, Fernando Mastrangelo created a sumptuous, curvilinear furniture landscape fashioned from sand molded with acrylic resin. Mastrangelo explains that the process to make wall tiles and other furniture, “as kind of like sand castle-style packing sand, only into a mold.” A surreal mountainous landscape surrounds the focal point of the space, a sand-cast sofa upholstered in oxblood cashmere, while the painting is visible through a nook in the wall, making the deep emeralds, reds, and oranges glow richly throughout the tableau.
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.