Big, Branched Balloons

This week, we’ve seen a cluster of balloons as well as pneumatic projects where massive balloons either fill or cap voids; today we’re going to look at projects where balloons take on challenging geometries and scales. Honestly, I’m not even sure we can properly call these structures balloons, but they’re fundamentally non-rigid bags full of gas, so we’re close enough. These big, branched balloons are not alone, they have relatives designed by BSC Architecture for P.S.1, MOS for an Inflatable Factory, and MMW in a project: Kiss the Frog.

Today’s two projects: Air Forest by Mass Studies and Mirazozo by Architects of Air, are very different from one another. Air Forest (top) was commissioned by the Denver Office of Cultural Affairs in 2008 to coincide with the Democratic National Convention. Mass Studies describes the project: “Our invitation was to create a temporary public space to be utilized in a vast array of scheduled events (such as the Yoga Health Festival, a cocktail party for the convention, a high school play, Dialog:City closing party) as well as for the general public to enjoy.” There’s a video that shows how joyously and surprisingly wavy the pavilion was during its brief life.

The second project was designed by a group calling themselves Architects of Air. Based in a former textile factory in Nottingham, AoA designs colorful balloons that go on tour as “accessible, ephemeral sculptures” demonstrating luminous colors and complex geometries. The strips of light you see in lower photo are actually the seams of the structure. AoA says; “[t]hese neon-like seams induce the visitor’s gaze to shift between different organisations of the same view. This is the same effect that one encounters in the geometric surface design of Islamic art and architecture.” As intriguing as the detail is in Mirazozo, it doesn’t look like any Mosque I’ve encountered.

Every structure we’ve looked at this week was intended to be either temporary or nomadic. It’s remarkable how an idea as simple as a balloon can be expanded to appropriate space for the public; space that is sometimes simply a shady spot with internet access and at other times is a mysterious and branching environment of luminous color. It bursts my bubble to think that, given the ephemeral nature of the projects, most are tucked away in boxes, trapped in the computer or buried in a landfill.


October 6, 2010