Draft Column Development

2012

The Draft Columns are a result of several months of research and investigation into a new kind of inflatable structure. I wanted to create a mobile construction that felt light and airy. An architecture that could expand into and respond to its location, visually porous yet stable.

I had been thinking about inflatables for some time. I was intrigued with their temporary nature, but extremely bothered by the sound the air compressor makes. Most inflatable buildings are mimicking a structural form the represents the properties of a solid material. If I was going to use air to support a structure, I wanted to be able to sense the air – with the sealed nature of traditional inflatable structures, this would not be possible.

Looking for other existing precedents, I started seriously looking at air dancers. They are able to grab your attention as you drive by because of their movement which is caused by fluctuating interior air pressure. I think that guy’s onto something…

Borrowing from the air dancers, I decided to start with an industrial strength fan I found at Northern Tool. Initially, I was using the fans to inflate columns that would have a scrim stretched between. This would basically create walls that you would walk between. I was also really interested in designing the “off” position to be as interesting as the “on” position. Placed on the trailer vertically, they would mimic the tire organization of semi trailer trucks and the fans would evoke spinner hubcaps going down the road.

I then started thinking about creating an arcade with a modular tri-column system. The modules could be arranged differently to create domes or arcades, making the inflated columns more integral in the spatial creation.

Taking a cue from the Air Dancer, I started my tests using ripstop nylon. Its light, durable and cheap – perfect for full scale mock-ups.

Success! I was still confused about the physics, but it was something to start with. The arched form was helping me out a great deal. It seemed like the air fills the arched form and then the arch provides the structure. It helped if the ends were weighted and then they work together to create a balanced system. It isn’t exactly rigid, but still could hold its own shape.

What if I turn everything upside down? I was always placing the fans within the bed of the trailer, but what if they were suspended? Then the inflatable only needs to support itself.

The draft columns get their name from the small Aluminet strip sewn into their center seam. From the beginning of the investigation, I had been extremely interested in the source of the inflation. I wanted the air force to be felt when you inhabit the space within the tri-column. It makes the draft columns perfect for sunny warm days when you need a nice breeze to keep cool.

I had always imagined the columns to be supporting a secondary scrim. Initially, I had thought the scrim would be Aluminet, a greenhouse shading fabric. Its translucent and reflective simultaneously and would keep the structure shaded. In the end, I decided it was too visually heavy and went with organza, which is lighter and probably moves better than the Aluminet.