SheltAir, a pavilion developed and designed by Gregory Quinn as part of his doctoral thesis at the Berlin University of the Arts is, as its name suggests, a shelter constructed with the help of air: a meticulously devised system comprising an elastic gridshell and pneumatic falsework in the form of air-filled cushions.
Drawing on earlier gridshell experiments and projects, such as Frei Otto’s famous Multihalle in Mannheim made of timber, the pavilion utilizes minimal material and is able to cover large spans. But quite unlike conventional methods of gridshell construction, which are complex, expensive, and time-consuming, SheltAir’s pneumatic system makes it quick, cost-effective, easily deployable, and hence ideal as a system for temporary events or even as refugee shelters in disaster-stricken areas.
Apart from serving as basic shelter, Quinn notes that large SheltAirs could serve as spaces for social and religious gatherings or for medical treatment—a crucial aspect usually ignored in the design of refugee shelters, mainly due to the urgent demand for small-scale family dwellings, as well as tight budgets, time constraints and limited resources.
While the prototype, currently on display in Berlin at ANCB The Aedes Metropolitan Laboratory, has a span of 13 meters, this method of construction allows considerable design freedom in terms of form—the designer has experimented with a wide range of spans, curvatures and pressures to determine the feasibility of each. If deployed, SheltAir would not only be efficient, but also a refreshing break from the typical, planar shelters being built today.
Architects: Department for Structural Design and Engineering [KET], Berlin University of Arts
Lead Architects: Gregory Quinn
Location: Berlin, Germany
Year: August 2017
Area: 110 sqm
Exhibitor: ANCB The Aedes Metropolitan Laboratory
Sponsors: Pultrex, Hightex, Serge Ferrari, Spirafix
Video: Gregory Quinn, Saqib Aziz
Photography: Jirka Jansch, Gregory Quinn