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Inflatable designs

Several inflatable designs have recently caught our eye. As serious designers take a look at this ballooning trend, the applications and innovations are becoming more valuable to the design community.

One great idea is the inflatable parasol. Design studio toer has launched the fantastic product, which blows itself up when the sun shines. A set of photovoltaic cells in the top of the parasol charge a concealed blower. When the sun’s intensity reaches a pre-set level, the blower switches on and inflates the parasol. A tough, UV-protective nylon fabric completes the design, which takes about 20 seconds to fill with air. Its diameter is 2m, meaning you can squeeze several of your friends under its protective canopy.

Artist and designer Lambert Kamps demonstrated a range of inflatable furniture and self-supporting structure designs at this year’s IMM Cologne show. His furniture is ‘fattened up’ through inflation, a reference to increasing obesity in western society.

Less cynical is the structure he created using a beige, inflatable tube. The tube is over 200 m long and is piled on top of itself. This textile snake is then roped together with tough red binders, making the whole construction look like a castle made of sandbags.

An exercise in material psychology, the inside of the structure is coloured in soft pastels. The idea is that the castle serves as a cozy shelter for those who enter it.

Perhaps these works have been inspired by the success of an inflatable folly by Kengo Kuma. The widely lauded architect designed a tea house in the shape of two golf balls for the textile museum at Augsburg in Germany. It makes use of high-strength, double-layered Tenara fabric and serves as a model of the effects that can be created with inflatable architecture.

Images courtesy of the designers. Watch a video of the inflatable parasol.