• 05.06.09

A Brief History of Inflatable Architecture

inflatable dome in New York

New York just wrapped a series of parties, held around the city inside the inflatable dome you see above. But inflatable architecture has been around for at least 40 years. Archidose just did a brilliant round-up of the highpoints. Here’s a brief summary.


The idea began, naturally, in the 1960s. The one up top is a design by the visionary, almost forgotten American firm Jersey Devil; at the bottom is a 1970 project by Ant Farm–whom you probably know from their outdoor installation Cadillac Ranch, which featured ten cars buried halfway into the ground:

Jersey Devil and Ant Farm

More recently, the artist Michael Rakowitz created ParaSITE, in 1988. Intended as a wry joke about the waste products which we never think about, it used the HVAC exhaust from buildings to inflate the structure:

Michael Rakowitz paraSITE

Alexis Rochas, an architecture professor at SCI-Arc, created this installation in 2006. Computers were used to cut more precise shapes; Rochas had the idea that in the future, we’d pack our homes into a suitcase:

Alexis Rochas installation

In 2006, Rem Koolhaas and engineer Cecil Balmond created what I personally think is the best pavilion ever seen on the grounds of the Serpentine Gallery in London (the museum invites an architect to erect a new temporary structure every summer):

Rem Koolhaas and Cecil Balmond pavilion

Norwegian firm mmw architects created this installation in 2005, to connect four separate buildings:

mmw architects

Also in 2005, Kengo Kuma created this Tea House on the grounds of museum in Frankfurt: 

Kengo Kuma Tea House

For more info, check out Archidose’s hard working summary.


About the author

Cliff is director of product innovation at Fast Company, founding editor of Co.Design, and former design editor at both Fast Company and Wired.