The Postlunar Imaginary through Inflatable ArchitectureKatarzyna Balug
The membrane of the [inflatable] structure becomes an extension of one’s skin, seen from inside the body, as it indents, sweats and changes shape, as the person inside moves over and through various locations. . . . We are all part of an energy continuum throughout the universe. . . .Understanding of energy processes is reaching the point where the wave emissions of the body and brain can be registered and measured, opening up the possibility of ultimate environmental control. . . . We are not alienated by technological hardware, but freed by technological forecasting, control and simulation of the elements. —Graham Stevens, “Pneumatics and Atmospheres,” Architectural Design
The artistic exploration of bodily enmeshment with technology and environmental control is emblematic of the changing conceptions of human subjectivity that occurred throughout the 1960s. In his 1972 article for Architectural Design, English artist Graham Stevens claimed that an existential extension of the body becomes coterminous with its environment—a body that, like its environment, is fully quantifiable, its mysteries decoded and controlled. NASA’s 1960s Apollo missions made explicit the case of human dependence on technology as they transformed the lunar voyage from long-standing fiction to reality. This article explores how the existential questions prompted by the Space Race manifested through inflatable structures, an often overlooked mode of experimentation in architecture. Inflatable constructions, made in the United States and Western Europe in the 1960s, appropriated the physical materials, iconography, and narrative of the NASA Apollo program to produce the imaginary of a new world not in outer space but firmly grounded on Earth. Deploying the materials of the Space Race, these structures expressed possible meanings of lunar conquest for humankind.
Graham Stevens ‘Atmosfields’ [1968-70] On location in St. Katharine Dock London. Photo: Andrew Tweedie. Copyright G.A.Stevens 1970.
Full content is available only for registered users. Please login or