Pneumatic Design

In the 1960s, the development of thermo-bonding techniques for waterproof plastic fabrics led to the proliferation of pneumatic applications.

Originally published in Domus 457/December 1967


Inflatable Furniture
Man managed to fly for the first time clinging to a balloon. For centuries, he studied and experimented with complicated flying machines, perfect mechanisms that cost many a life of study, observations and life itself. Then the situation changed: a membrane, hot air and up into the sky. Air solved a problem as old as the world. Today we solve many of our problems with air; just think of car tires, and even if there is no real Science of the Inflatable , our interest is clear in this ever-expanding technique that contributes to changing and improving our lives.
Left: Blow chair designed by architects C. Scolari, P. Lomazzi, D. D'Urbino, J. De Pas and mass-produced by Zanotta in Lissone (Milan), in transparent and colored PVC, shown at the Salone del Mobile in Milan in September 1967. Right: spherical inflatable chair, designed by the British group Incadinc and produced by London's Goods and Chattels, in red, white, blue, purple PVC (The Architectural Design, October 1967). Above: furniture pieces in inflatable transparent PVC, designed by architects Jean Aubert, Jean-Paul Jungmann and Antonio Stinco in Paris for the <i>AJS-Aerolande</i> inflatable furniture series.
Left: Blow chair designed by architects C. Scolari, P. Lomazzi, D. D'Urbino, J. De Pas and mass-produced by Zanotta in Lissone (Milan), in transparent and colored PVC, shown at the Salone del Mobile in Milan in September 1967. Right: spherical inflatable chair, designed by the British group Incadinc and produced by London's Goods and Chattels, in red, white, blue, purple PVC (The Architectural Design, October 1967). Above: furniture pieces in inflatable transparent PVC, designed by architects Jean Aubert, Jean-Paul Jungmann and Antonio Stinco in Paris for the AJS-Aerolande inflatable furniture series.
Even in architecture and urbanism, the studies and examples of pneumatic applications do not fail to fascinate us with their science fiction connotations. Now we have come to interiors and furniture, attracted by the possibility of transient solutions, which satisfy the negation of durable meaning, opposing it with the object made out of nothing and only for use. The problem was in the air. There was general discussion among designers and proposals were made to manufacturers, who could not free themselves from the phobia of the balloon and the needle. Then, suddenly, the first pictures were printed in large popular publications along with the first articles and so on in all publications, even the dailies: from "Life" to "II Giorno" the inflatable has now become news and, as "Le Nouvel Observateur" states, public opinion is infected with the le virus de la pneumanie .
Inflatable chair, manufactured by Unika Vaev, Copenhagen as early as 1962 on the deisgn of Danish designer Verner Panton: it is in blue, transparent  PVC with different inner tubes (Domus 408).
Inflatable chair, manufactured by Unika Vaev, Copenhagen as early as 1962 on the deisgn of Danish designer Verner Panton: it is in blue, transparent PVC with different inner tubes (Domus 408).
In New York, business opportunities are never passed up and Mass Art Incorporated is already producing a series of inflatable plastic furniture: chairs, pillows and even a mattress-bed whose modular elements are dimensioned in relation to the user's height. The colors of the glossy transparent vinyl are vibrant and the technique is in the packaging; the laboratories are reminiscent of paper dresses and even in this case, commercial exploitation is prevalent. One cannot get over the feeling of working for a precarious market with the impression that today's massive orders will be followed by sudden drops and the need to change production. Of course all of this finds precise correspondence in the design of the models: looking at them, you certainly don't feel like you're witnessing a phenomenon that will revolutionize our homes but one thinks, rather, of object-toys created to amuse and amaze.
Even in architecture and urbanism, the studies and examples of pneumatic applications do not fail to fascinate us with their science fiction connotations.
IInflatable chair by Bernard Quentin, Paris designer: large and light. Quentin’s are the first large inflatable chairs (no substructure), which have been realized.
IInflatable chair by Bernard Quentin, Paris designer: large and light. Quentin’s are the first large inflatable chairs (no substructure), which have been realized.
In Europe, where true mass production has not come about, the prototypes show more ambition and solicit some interest from major manufacturers but also here, it is a testing ground full of ideas, of attempts. The generality of these examples may provide the opportunity for easy criticism of what is alien to the design process and, on the other hand, it does not seem to be the case to attempt the complicated recovery of these phenomena, seeking their place in our industrial culture. We prefer to consider them only exciting anticipations....It will be fitting, then, to encourage an awareness of the problem, denouncing any ambiguity regarding the objectives and the cultural state that contributes to determining them.
Left: two colored inflatable stools. Right: another <i>pneu</i> realization by Quentin: an <i>accumulation</i> of pneumatic forms on exhibit in June in Paris at the Galerie Givaudan. Quentin had a show at the Galleria Apollinaire in Milan this winter.
Left: two colored inflatable stools. Right: another pneu realization by Quentin: an accumulation of pneumatic forms on exhibit in June in Paris at the Galerie Givaudan. Quentin had a show at the Galleria Apollinaire in Milan this winter.
By Walter Pichler, architect and designer in Vienna, a transparent inflatable sculpture (<i>Grosser Raum</i>, 1966) shown in a transparent sphere, in Kapfenberg Park, Austria, in the spring.
By Walter Pichler, architect and designer in Vienna, a transparent inflatable sculpture (Grosser Raum , 1966) shown in a transparent sphere, in Kapfenberg Park, Austria, in the spring.
<i>Oyodon</i> (named after a fish of the Nile which swells enormously when exposed to air) is an experimental pneumatic housing project, designed by architects Jean Aubert, Jean-Paul Jungmann and Antonio Stinco, Paris: a large alveolar volume, with double walls and tubular ribs inflated until they become stiff, with pneumatic furnishings and equipment. A light portable, floating volume that can be suspended by cables in a void... The project was presented in July at the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris.
Oyodon (named after a fish of the Nile which swells enormously when exposed to air) is an experimental pneumatic housing project, designed by architects Jean Aubert, Jean-Paul Jungmann and Antonio Stinco, Paris: a large alveolar volume, with double walls and tubular ribs inflated until they become stiff, with pneumatic furnishings and equipment. A light portable, floating volume that can be suspended by cables in a void... The project was presented in July at the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris.
From Archigram Group in London, the idea of a human-scale container, a kind of well-equipped pneumatic spacesuit, which releases, on command, a pneumatic capsule-environment.
From Archigram Group in London, the idea of a human-scale container, a kind of well-equipped pneumatic spacesuit, which releases, on command, a pneumatic capsule-environment.
Left: Pneumatic structure by Jean Aubert, Jean-Paul Jungmann and Antonio Stinco in Paris, 1967. Right: temporary outdoor sculptures in colored PVC, from three to eight meters high, in Kapfenberg Park (Austria), designed by Hans Hollein, architect.
Left: Pneumatic structure by Jean Aubert, Jean-Paul Jungmann and Antonio Stinco in Paris, 1967. Right: temporary outdoor sculptures in colored PVC, from three to eight meters high, in Kapfenberg Park (Austria), designed by Hans Hollein, architect.
Right: an inflated transparent plastic seat, designed by Piero Poletto, set designer,  for the film <i>La decima vittima</i> by Elio Petri, 1966 (Domus 437).
Right: an inflated transparent plastic seat, designed by Piero Poletto, set designer, for the film La decima vittima by Elio Petri, 1966 (Domus 437).
Armchair in transparent PVC (parts spray finished), designed by architects Jean Aubert, Jean-Paul Jungmann and Antonio Stinco, Paris, for the <i> AJS-Aerolande </ i> series of inflatable furniture. Produced by Plermag of La Charite-sur-Loire, the chair is made of two independent parts: an arm-back (made of two tubes) and an ottoman, tied with a belt to the back. (Here is the chair photographed at Galeries Lafayette in Paris, October '67).
Armchair in transparent PVC (parts spray finished), designed by architects Jean Aubert, Jean-Paul Jungmann and Antonio Stinco, Paris, for the AJS-Aerolande series of inflatable furniture. Produced by Plermag of La Charite-sur-Loire, the chair is made of two independent parts: an arm-back (made of two tubes) and an ottoman, tied with a belt to the back. (Here is the chair photographed at Galeries Lafayette in Paris, October '67).
Sofa in transparent PVC.
Sofa in transparent PVC.

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