Pick up a shell at the beach and note its dome-like structure. Hermit crabs understand this intuitively, crawling into larger versions as they grow. And 1900 years ago, the Romans built the Pantheon, the world’s largest solid concrete dome to date.
Air or Ice as Construction Material
A team at Vienna University of Technology’s Institute for Structural Engineering is developing a new type of construction process to re-create the natural and functional structures found in nature or built by the world’s great architects. Buckminster Fuller detailed, at great length, the advantages of dome-like structures: distributed load, pleasant visual impact, economical to heat, etc.
But the technology for building domes has involved time-consuming and complex construction, which has added to their expense. This has resulted in waste of materials used in the building process, which relegates domes for use by the wealthy or a small counterculture.
According to team leader Frei Otto, there are many methods for using “pneumatic formworks” to build domes, including spraying an inflatable rubber membrane with layers of concrete or inflating a membrane covered with fresh concrete. (shown below).
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