Building with Air

Design Laboratory Devises Innovative Modular Inflatable Architecture

Pneuhaus started out life in 2013 as thesis project between Rhode Island School of Design students, Matthew Muller and August Lehrecke. The team has expanded since then and taken on a number of new design challenges and projects, generally using air as their main material. Their latest, Pneumatic Masonry was devised in response to a commission in Davos, Switzerland.

“We wanted to make a structure that didn’t have cold air blowing around, and further, could be insulated and heated against the harsh Swiss winter. But what came out of the commission was a more interesting idea of a modular, long-term inflatable,” Pneuhaus explain.

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Like many great designs, Pneumatic Masonry is brilliant in its simplicity. It takes the basic units of masonry such as bricks and mortar and adapts them; the ‘bricks’ become inflated modules and the ‘mortar’ is made up by a net holding them together. This makes the design infinitely versatile.

The resulting structures can be semi-permanent, whereas constant-air inflatable structures have to be temporary. Next week Pneuhaus are taking their design to a workshop hosted by Arts Letters and Numbers, a non profit arts, education and publishing organization based in New York. It will be a chance for other artists and designers to come up with new forms and applications for Pneumatic Masonry.

We were keen to learn more about Pneuhaus and their latest innovation.

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The Plus: What are the main aims of Pneuhaus?
Pneuhaus:
We aim to create new and transformative spaces and develop our craft of construction techniques. While starting from separate places, both of these interests are interdependent, feeding off one another in the process of realizing an idea as well as providing inspiration for future projects.

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TP: What practical applications do you envisage for Pneumatic Masonry?
P:
The concept of using individually inflated cells to create an insulated, durable shelter can definitely be applied in more practical applications. We have imagined greenhouses, pavilions, car garages, backyard shelters, and forest enclosures.

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TP: What are the long term ambitions, both for the project and more generally?
P:
Generally, we have ambitions of creating a reactive space that changes according to people’s interactions. As far as the project, we would like to build a permanent structure using this technique. The versatility allows people to re arrange modules in various forms, depending on what is needed. We like to think of them as Buckyballs for buildings, where someone could create anything ranging from a raft to a greenhouse.

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All photographs courtesy Cassidy Batiz, all drawings courtesy of Pneuhaus.

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