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Walking on air

Projects | January 1, 2015 | By:

The Collectif de la Meute (Collective of the Pack), Douarnenez, France, is an affinity group enthusiastic about creating art—theater, visual arts, digital productions, circus acts, architecture and urban planning—in public spaces. The transitory nature of modern life inspired the Pack to create a movable public space: the Air Bubble, “a temporary, nomadic and living shelter, a vanishing place,” according to Jérémie Moquard, one of the Pack’s three founding members. To design the Air Bubble, the Pack enlisted Raumlaborberlin, Berlin, Germany, designers and architects producing public space projects of “small scale … deeply rooted in the local condition.”

The Air Bubble was developed in Douarnenez, a seacoast city with warm weather, scenic vistas and a growing tourism business. Construction consisted of three major parts: a revamped truck to move the bubble from place to place, the bubble itself, and the base material. The Pack and Raumlaborberlin chose reinforced fireproof PVC fabric for the bubble, a semi-transparent material manufactured by Sinthylene, Pont de Vaux, France. The material had to stretch, be light enough to inflate, meet local fire safety conditions, and remain supple over time. Sixty-three volunteers and collective members used glue and waterproof wire to shape an estimated 7,500 square feet of fabric into the bubble shape. A fireproof PVC canvas served as the floor. It took 13 weeks to ready and inflate the Air Bubble for public use.

Visitors enter through the 1964 Citroen truck, rebuilt to include a sealed wooden hatch that opens to allow people inside the 194-foot-long, 130-foot-wide space. From inside, visitors see their surroundings through a misty, light-touched veil. From the outside, the Air Bubble looks like an exuberant natural occurrence, around which people can gather and converse.

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