Mind & Matter


Positive Inflation

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Hirshhorn Museum Addition. Rendering by Diller Scofidio + Renfro.


Anyone who assumed that the era of inflatable architecture was over should think again. Architects have recently returned to blow-up buildings comprised by sophisticated, nimble, multi-wall structures of translucent plastic. Notable examples include Kengo Kuma’s inflatable teahouse, MIT’s Cloud concept for the London Olympics, and most recently—Diller Scofidio + Renfro’s expansion bubble for Washington DC’s Hirshhorn Museum. This vinyl-based blue bubble will provide additional space for social gatherings, and will make a large visual impact on the Washington Mall with minimal expense or review requirements (Director Richard Koshalek is not required to seek approval from the conservative DC museum commissions, since the bubble is temporary). Inflatables’ ability to do so much with so little certainly provides a compelling case for their use in a lagging economy and by a design profession in need of a little “lift.”




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About the Blogger

Blaine Brownell

thumbnail image Minnesota-based architect and author Blaine Brownell, AIA, is a self-defined materials researcher and sustainable building adviser. His "Product of the Week" emails and three volumes of Transmaterial (2006, 2008, 2010) provide designers with a steady flow of inspiration—a 21st-century Grammar of Ornament. Blaine has practiced architecture in Japan and the U.S. and has been published in more than 40 design, business, and science publications. The recipient of a Fulbright fellowship for 2006–07, he researched contemporary Japanese material innovations at the Tokyo University of Science. He currently teaches architecture and co-directs the M.S. in Sustainable Design program at the University of Minnesota. His book Matter in the Floating World was published by Princeton Architectural Press in 2011.