Tag Archives: cristian suau




‘All men are designers. All that we do, almost all the time, is design, for design is basic to all human activity’ (Victor Papanek, 1971)

What is design, art or rather science manifestation? Is design a medium that mediates between Air and Earth, Air-Earth? How can we bridge the gap between them? Let’s think about airships and their heroic contribution in early 20th century! We all know that this interval is quite diffuse and permeable, a borderland without demarcations. The ancient Hellenic cultures referred to the world techne (τέχνη) to describe the amalgamation of art and science. Nowadays design aims to become a bond, holistic, ecological and interdisciplinary system. According to Humberto Maturana, Cybernetics is “the science and art of understanding”[1].
Systemic Thinking is the way. It has demonstrated how ‘mechanicist’ models have completely failed due to they concentrated its own attention on the separation and regimentation of disciplines, without considering the relationships between components and their interconnectivity. In doing so, systemic design is both a structured and structuring action. It offers a holistic worldview regarding the environment and its inner structure. According to the theory of the ‘Four Laws of Ecologies’, Barry Commoners (The Closing Circle, 1971) affirms everything is connected to everything else. There is one ecosphere for all living organisms and what affects one, affects all”. Here design provides an articulating interface between biological and technical nutrients where waste is transformed into energy and vice versa. This implies not only an aesthetical or technical meanings but it also asks for an ethical position. Bucky Fuller (Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth, 1967) reveals an even more challenging statement. He sees ‘we are all astronauts’, synergy-makers. Paraphrasing him, Victor Papanek (Design for the Real World: Human Ecology and Social Change, 1971) reconsidered the holistic vision of design, which emphasizes the democratisation and customisation of design through the transformation of planet Earth and the total engagement of mankind.
When we think about pneumatic structures I always think on Ant Farm (1968) and its Inflatables (1971). This environmental design practice invites us to blow out: oh underground architecture is what ants do! Deeply influenced by this visionary agency, the artist Graham Stevens has also investigated the symbiosis between ecology, society and technology. Especially the legacy of his pneumatic art is fundamental in this study because it promotes the relationship between inflatable structures and their environment. Desert Cloud is a documentary (Kuwait, 1974) that shows the behaviour of an inflated giant mattress, hovering in the sky and triggering a new climatic domain. It is composed by linear cells, transparent in the upper part and reflective in the lower part, and separated by black membranes. This configuration is aimed to overheat the air and producing a floating structure. Moreover the structure provides shade and condensation even in arid lands. How? The experimental ‘air-leaves’ of Stevens is more than a simple poetical provocation. In fact it does not only connect the technical and the artistic dimensions but underpins the energy-water transformation processes in impervious context.

Games are regular systems that govern our every-day life. They are often characterised by their tools and defined by their rules. Whilst rules are subject to variations and changes, enough alterations in the rules usually result in a new game. Spatial experimentation in architecture requires ludic game plans. Roger Caillois (Les Jeux et Les Hommes, 1992) defines the notion of game as a human activity that has the following characteristics: Simplicity, Enjoyment, Instantness, Uncertainty, Rules and Abstraction.


Air-frames are transgressive games in the sense that they go beyond limits or capacities of conventional structures. They subvert rules and turn conventions upside down. Blow-up architecture is a form of air-play, a fictitious reality of new living.
CEPELINA ARTSHIP© is a space invader in Scotland. It is the reincarnation and also tribute to the epic of all Zeppelins crossing the Atlantic Ocean to connect urbanites from shore to shore. The construction of CEPELINA ARTSHIP© is a pioneering pocket air-lab, easy to transport, light and easy to inflate. It remains me my childhood making the dove and then baking ‘empanadas’. This technology enables to inflate the entire air-frame in few steps. You can inhabit the in-between of two films!

This work is the result of two authors –Laura and Paulina- who are great game-makers. What can we extract from this extraordinary lesson of Pneumatic Architecture? What new air-games should we play instead? This art agency promotes temporary ideas that have no commercial potential but are important vehicles of cultural introspection. I suggest you visit and this instant balloon in person and experience a momentary sense of time and place.

The lesson of this pavilion triggers the potential playability for future elementary designs. CEPELINA ARTSHIP© interrogates to transform our conventional mind setting as designers or artists into new scenarios governed by ludic actions and self-ruled by spatial explorations, drifts and transgressiveness. The simplicity of the equation of this pavilion is High-Design + Low-Tech. CEPELINA ARTSHIP© reveals the power of playing with less by exploring DIY; spatial compactness; structural lightness and speed of fabrication within a Life Cycle Thinking (LCT).

(Notes by Cristian Suau)

[1] Maturana, H. (1999), Patterns, ASCD System Thinking/Chaos Theory Network/ASC Newsletter, (Spring/Summer 2006).

http://www.asc-cybernetics.org/Patterns/PATTERNS%202006%20Spring_Summer.pdf, accessed in 30/04/15.