Within a variety of architectural balloon projects, there is a recurring motif of balloons capping voids in projects from a variety of architects like OMA, MAD or Alex Lehnerer (who won the competition to fill the void created by stalled construction of the Chicago Spire with a huge, yellow balloon). But there’s a particular project that expands a void balloon into inhabitable space: the Hirshhorn Museum Bubble by Diller, Scofidio + Renfro.
Working within a conservative building climate at the Smithsonian Institute (which the Hirshhorn is part of) the Hirshhorn’s newish director, Richard Koshalek, realized that a temporary structure would require the approval of only the Hirshhorn’s own Board of Directors. According to DS+R’s website, the project is in a respectful dialoge with the 1974 Gordon Bunshaft building that squeezes the otherwise amoeba-like, pneumatic structure into a 150 foot tall floppy dome. Under this dome, hundreds of people can gather and participate in publicly-minded museum programming. But using a pneumatic structure offers respect and other advantages summarized by Nicoli Ouroussoff: “Worst case, if it turned out that people hated it, it could be packed away forever.”
Which is kind of sad to think about: that a well-respected firm could invest the time and energy while an institution invested five million dollars in a ballon that might as well just float away.