From NASA to Bouncy Houses: The Evolution of Inflatables

Inflatable Architecture has enabled the imaginations of environmental dreamers of all types. From figures like Buckminster Fuller to Ant Farm, inflatables promise to liberate people from the harsh conditions of nature or the tyranny of architecture. Originally developed by the US Military for radar enclosures on the arctic, inflatables were picked up by NASA before their secrets were bestowed upon the public who deployed them to solve all sorts of problems, from enclosing pools to stadiums.

Today — 70 years later — and people are still dreaming of new uses for inflatables. However, there are other, more covert uses that one might not even know were inflatable, like their application at the Kaplan Institute at IIT by the architect John Ronan. Here the facade is an inflatable ETFE membrane that filters light while providing ample insulation. This video traces this evolution from military and NASA technology, all the way to buildings like the facade on the Kaplan Institute.

Architecture with Stewart is a YouTube journey exploring architecture’s deep and enduring stories in all their bewildering glory. Weekly videos and occasional live events breakdown a wide range of topics related to the built environment in order to increase their general understanding and advocate their importance in shaping the world we inhabit.

Stewart Hicks is an architectural design educator that leads studios and lecture courses as an Associate Professor in the School of Architecture at the University of Illinois at Chicago. He also serves as an Associate Dean in the College of Architecture, Design, and the Arts and is the co-founder of the practice Design With Company. His work has earned awards such as the Architecture Record Design Vanguard Award or the Young Architect’s Forum Award and has been featured in exhibitions such as the Chicago Architecture Biennial and Design Miami, as well as at the V&A Museum and Tate Modern in London. His writings can be found in the co-authored book Misguided Tactics for Propriety Calibration, published with the Graham Foundation, as well as essays in MONU magazine, the AIA Journal Manifest, Log, bracket, and the guest-edited issue of MAS Context on the topic of character architecture.

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Cite: Diego Hernández. "From NASA to Bouncy Houses: The Evolution of Inflatables" 21 Apr 2022. ArchDaily. Accessed . <> ISSN 0719-8884

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