ASPIRE’s Summer Must-Reads: Bubbletecture


“Bubbletecture,” a fun-sized book with a bubblegum-pink cover from Phaidon, shows off 200 inflated projects to catch your eye and lift your spirits – from temporary shelters to airy dresses to park benches.

Author and New York City architect Sharon Francis spent two years searching for the best contemporary works, including projects by Christo and London fashion designer Christopher Raeburn. She found her favorites all over, from Mexico City to Vienna.

“Inflatables can be playful, thought-provoking and often affordable, hence the capacity for invention,” she quips. “A lot of buildings now employ ETFE panels (permanent, double-membrane inflated panels) with long lifespans. One example is The Shed, a flexible art space in New York City by Diller Sco dio + Renfro.

“Inflatable architecture and design have moved in and out of interest,” adds Francis. “The medium has been a vehicle for innovative creators, from the first hot air balloons to space exploration to new technologies that push sustainability norms – while providing some joy along the way.”

One project that always makes her smile? Anna Maria Cornelia’s bright yellow inflatable “Life Dress” (Belgium, 2012), which allows the wearer to inflate the “skirt” into an instant private cocoon.

Is a bubble house strong enough to dwell in? “Depending on the actual material used, in theory, the answer is yes,” notes the expert.

Some inflatables can be insulated and heated and used as greenhouses, pavilions, garages and garden shelters, she assures. The creations generally begin with manmade materials under the generic heading of plastics, explains Francis, but many new forms are recyclable, renewable and sustainable.

Measuring about 5 by 7 inches, the book is great to toss into your carry-on and read during take-off.

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