Last year, Berlin’s Templehof airport became one of the largest refugee camps in Europe. In addition to hosting thousands of beds for people fleeing Syria, the decommissioned airport also featured a thought-provoking installation by Plastique Fantastique, a local architecture firm known for its inflatable structures.
Named Liveboat, the piece is an example of the firm’s focus on temporary experimental spaces that are part architecture, part cultural expression. Essentially a building-scale inflatable life raft, the piece invited visitors to walk inside and listen to passages from the Odyssey, Homer’s poem about one man’s journey home and the struggles to arrive there.
“Instead of landing in the south of Italy, it landed in Berlin,” Marco Canevacci, Plastique Fantastique’s co-founder, says in a video documentary about his work. “The story is still very [relevant] but the difference is Odysseus is seen in our culture as a hero and immigrants are seen as assholes. It’s a monument to a current tragedy, which is the result of a European political system that’s not acting in solidarity…It’s a shame what is happening in Europe.”
Plastique Fantastique–which is composed of architects, a set designer, a sound artist, a sculptor, and an intern–was founded in 1999 by graduates from the Technical University Berlin. They began using plastic as a medium because it was cheap, easy to work with, and all it took was a fan to create a volume, as Canal180 explains in a new mini-doc on the group. Its first installation came about because they rented a sprawling space, and couldn’t heat the whole area, so they created smaller “rooms” using plastic and pumped hot air into them.
In the years that followed, they created dozens of pieces that riff on the work of counterculture architecture firm Ant Farm–which published its influential DIY book on Inflatocookbook pneumatic structures in 1971–and remixes it with modern influences like projection mapping and soundscapes.
For another recent project, the Sound of Light, Plastique Fantastique built a giant inflatable tube an mounted a digital camera on top of it. The camera captured daylight and broke it down into six colors–red, green, blue, cyan, magenta, and yellow. Each color wavelength was paired with a sound frequency so that the changing daylight created a symphony of sounds. “That’s what most of the firm’s work is like: how to take architecture, sound, design, art, and space and mix them to create something special and ephemeral,” Canevacci says.
Spy more of the firm’s work in the Canal180 video below.
All Images: via Plastique Fantastique