Design Studio WS 05/06



The “material” air, or rather the various forms of its envelope, is to be used to create a load-bearing roof that is capable of protecting against wind and weather as well as against the sun. The roof made of air thus becomes the starting point for design and construction considerations. Whether it is intended as a message carrier or for use in emergency situations, whether it is a low-budget solution or a high-end roof, the only principle that should apply is its temporary existence. Questions about the transportability, the concrete use, the place of installation, the changeability, as well as the appearance define a process of search, which should be anchored not least again and again in the production plant.Since it is intended to lead some of the designs to a concrete realization, from the beginning, an extremely intensive contact to the development and production is maintained. The basics and advanced knowledge of building with the material air imparted in the course of the design process will therefore flow directly into the development of these new roofing structures and test the design approaches in reality.


The design exercise is to be completed either as part of a 4-hour design (development of a single roof segment approx. 25m2) or as part of an 8-hour design (development of a more extensive roof structure, which is characterized by linkages and variants).


It is usually building materials such as concrete, steel, glass or wood that accompany the architect in his desire to enclose and envelop space. Materials that, on the basis of empirical experience and sometimes complex calculation methods, can be used by the planner in a tangible, calculable and subsequently almost risk-free way for spatial designs. And there is no doubt that it is the structural dimensions or the ways in which individual materials are joined that have a lasting effect on the structural expression of a complex architectural structure. It is therefore obvious that the design process with well-known building materials leads in a certain way to more or less predictable results. The situation is quite different if one takes on a “material” that has neither been studied in detail nor measured or even calculated in its entirety. Not least for this reason, the design program “Smart_Air” set itself the goal of getting closer to such a new material, which until now has only been investigated in its infancy, and to make it the core subject of a targeted design exercise. “Air” resp. a pneumatic construction should lead to statically load-bearing and space-enclosing solutions, which could be classified under the designation “roof” albeit in the broadest sense. The design projects presented below therefore open up a wide spectrum of what such an air-filled textile skin is capable of achieving in terms of “roof”. They not only refer the viewer to the aspect of the temporary, which seems to be inherent in aerial architecture, but they also bring the moment of chronological processes in the course of erection and dismantling into the focus of design consideration. Consequently, it is not uncommon for architecture to be outlined as temporary, possibly only for hours or even minutes, a structural environment that grows, as it were, at the push of a button and collapses again just as quickly. In view of this, architecture becomes “portable” in the truest sense of the word. Stowable in the shopping bag and sometimes even larger or smaller, as the mood takes you. Moreover, the results of such an exercise can no longer be represented only in plan and elevation. They are models and model studies that bear witness to a thought process that virtually demands new means and tools, both in terms of representation and implementation. Here, the model was sewn, air was filled in, glued and ultimately tested for its load-bearing capacity. After all, if it doesn’t hold up in the scale model, it probably won’t hold up in real size either. As easy as building with air is in terms of weight, the procedures involved in working on and with an “unknown” building material are complex.