• “l’Entorse” association
    by Julien Carrel

    Julien Carrel, president of the association Entorse explains the process behind the collaboration with AZC as part of the proposal Water Invaders.

    Hermann Lugan and I founded L’Entorse in 2006 in Lille, with the aim of forging links between the worlds of art and sport, two worlds whose functions and followings too frequently remain compartmentalised.

    Today, nearly 30,000 people visit some 40 municipalities in Lille and across the Nord-Pas-de-Calais region of north-eastern France that host the biennial festival of exhibitions, shows and participatory projects exploring the world of sport.

    At the end of 2012, in response to our call for projects for the 2014 festival, AZC proposed Water Invaders. Their proposal came with several site options: in areas of natural water within the Lille conglomeration, or in the Salengro swimming pool in Bruay-la-Buissière, 30 miles south-east of Lille – one of the most beautiful Art Deco open-air swimming pools still in use in France. These different options fitted well, and with some degree of pertinence, with local public strategy for promoting the heritage and leisure activities of these areas of water.

    Water Invaders appealed to us because in the image of the L’Entorse festival, which unites sports fans and arts enthusiasts, it brings together ideas that are apparently contradictory, or at least disjointed: visual impact and sports recreation, monumentality and simplicity, an original take on familiar references – Space Invaders, trampoline.

    In terms of relational and participative aesthetics, this piece reminds us just what rich and fertile sources of inspiration areas of natural water, and swimming pools, can be for contemporary designers, artists and architects. Among many other projects, we might be reminded of Daniel Buren and Pauline Fondevila’s range of striped sails, Franck Bölter’s giant paper boat building performance, or the installation ‘Les Thermes’, by arts collective Amicale de Production. Perhaps it is because water games and water sports are, from early childhood, particularly joyful and memorable experiences, giving rise to powerful images and feelings?

    Water Invaders is a sort of Proust’s madeleine in a swimsuit, drawing as it does on nostalgia for a classic video game and the childish joy of bouncing off a trampoline into water. It remains our intention to find partners, in and around Lille, who are ready to take the plunge in creating the conditions for the production and use of this installation.

  • Idea competitions can open minds
    by Kim Benjamin Stowe

    Kim Benjamin Stowe, president and director of ArchTriumph London, demonstrates how ideas competitions are vehicles of open-mindedness and innovation, taking the example of three AZC projects in competition.

    I work mainly from London, on a wide variety of arts projects. I’m a firm advocate for the ‘almost anything is possible’ and ‘make it happen’ schools of thought, I left the world of investment banking a few years ago to concentrate on my passion for art, architecture and design, and during the global recession came up with the idea of organizing architectural competitions. It seemed unfair that the creative industries should pay such a heavy price for the downturn; the pressure was on for the architectural profession, which relies so heavily on the availability of financial resources. I was very aware of the fundamental role competitions and awards played in the world of architecture, and wanted to be involved in projects large and small, built and un-built – both valuable in their own rights. ArchTriumph was born: with a friend, we set out to run various architecture competitions, a mission driven by sheer passion. I had always wanted to set up a project for an intervention in a public space, like Pavilion, and ArchTriumph provided the platform.

    ArchTriumph, the Triumph of Architecture and Design, is a platform for architectural exploration and presentation, a celebration of the role of architecture and design in our lives and the world around us. We provide an avenue for experimentation for architects and designers that brings them both invaluable publicity and potential financial reward. Unconventional projects, which I prefer to call innovative projects, are made public through competitions, exhibitions and installations. They capture the public’s imagination and spark discussion on the subject, the site, the structure, and the architects themselves. ArchTriumph projects, even as un-built proposals, can make a community think differently about itself. And when they are built they make a clear positive impact on the immediate community. Take the example of AZC’s 2013 Peace Pavilion for east London’s Museum Gardens. Both residents and local politicians were enormously proud of the elegant structure, welcoming the kind of project that is more often seen in the more affluent areas of the city to their neighborhood. These projects draw attention to their sites and their sites’ potential, prompting people to use them, and to use them differently. They bring architecture and design to a place where they can resonate with a wider audience in a very direct way.

    Bouncing Bridge

    In 2012, we launched a competition to design a new, contemporary bridge over the River Seine in Paris to challenge the existing notions of bridges. We hoped for exciting and challenging ideas. AZC’s project, entitled « Saut de Seine », brought a smile to the face of every member of the competition panel. We all agreed that it was one of the best proposals for its sheer audacity. The project came third in the competition, but was widely embraced by press and public, who rechristened it the “Trampoline Bridge”. I don’t think you always expect the general public to like or approve of the decisions made by a panel, but when a risk pays off it is great.

    Even though it didn’t win the competition, it is a project that remained in everyone’s mind to some degree long after the final selection.

    The success of the bridge was in the marriage of project and city, which captured our imagination. Maybe the combination of innovation, romance and fun was too much for the public to resist. I think that a project like the Bouncing Bridge would transform views of Paris, casting it in the light of a city with ambition, fun, and where going out on a limb is encouraged. I could see this bridge in London on a stretch of the River Thames. Maybe we should talk to our Mayor…!

    Peace Pavilion

    Archtriumph pavillon at bethnal green - londres -2013

    Every summer, ArchTriumph installs a pavilion in the gardens of the Museum of Childhood, an annex of the Victoria & Albert Museum. The Peace Pavilion was our first summer pavilion. The Peace Pavilion was an anonymous competition entry but I immediately had a strong suspicion that the ‘Fun Architects’, as I had dubbed Irina Cristea and Grégoire Zündel following the Bouncing Bridge competition, were behind it. The project replied to the brief, was elegant, innovative and bold, and resonated with that year’s theme of Peace. It was selected and sure enough, it was AZC.

    The panel was initially concerned that the project would prove to be high maintenance, even after we had assured the Health & Safety officers that helium gas would not be used! Concerns were also expressed about the project coming in on budget and on time. But in our quest for innovation, we were quickly convinced that we needed to give it our full support, and the decision proved to be right.

    The Peace Pavilion transformed the way the gardens were used, the routes people took and the numbers of visitors. It changed the way the local community saw the space and the neighbourhood – they now anticipate each year’s new project. Many expressed their wish that the Peace Pavilion be installed permanently. The pavilion was used by visiting schools for shelter during lunch breaks, short lessons and discussion following a visit to the Museum. Children played in it, families held picnics, it provided a meeting point for friends and held poetry readings and music concerts; it was used as the backdrop for photographic shoots. The Peace Pavilion was widely and enthusiastically received.

    Battersea Power Station

    We chose London’s iconic Battersea Power Station as the site for an ideas competition, for the installation of an architecture museum, out of frustration after yet another proposal for its redevelopment came to nothing. Designed by Giles Gilbert Scott in the 1930s, Battersea Power Station is an iconic structure and landmark for Londoners, even more so than its slightly later sister building at Bankside, now home to the highly successful Tate Modern after a sensitive restoration and redevelopment.

    I have always loved Battersea Power Station It is a structure I passed on my train route home as a teenager, I was fascinated by its sheer volume and the size of the chimneys – it is a fantastic urban castle. Money no object, I would gladly make it my home!

    Irina Cristea and Grégoire Zündel, winners of the competition, used the idea of a theme park, putting in a roller-coaster that would enable visitors to explore the power station from every angle. This entry confirmed their nickname as the ‘Fun Architects’ forever.

    Ideas competitions can open minds. They are founded on creativity rather than any kind of formulaic approach, and lay open the site for all to consider – members of the public, architects, developers and politicians. Every project, architectural or political, starts with an idea, without an idea there is no starting point, no trigger for discussion, no argument for change.

  • Technical creativity
    by Anton Miserachs et Pilar Navarro

    TP Architectura i Construccio Tèxtil is a company that has been exploring for 30 years the technical possibilities of inflatable and textile architectures. Companies at the origin of the manufacture of inflatable projects AZC, they tell us their evolutions and their rejection of standardized projects in favor of a "technical creativity".

    prototype de pont gonflable - module de base

    TP Arquitectura i Construcció Tèxtil is a family business specialising in textile constructions. We were set up 30 years ago by Ton Miserachs and Pilar Navarro in Catalonia. Our aim has always been to offer a personalised service. By refusing to manufacture in series and turning down projects for standardised constructions, we have been free to concentrate on technical creativity, with each new project a new challenge.

    We are constantly looking for new materials and technical innovations that allow us to respect architects’ and designers’ designs while proposing technical improvements. From the outset we have worked closely with Professor Ramon Sastre, PhD, Architect, and the Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya. These relationships allowed us to benefit from the very first software for the calculation of tensile and inflatable structures, WinTess, developed by Ramon Sastre. As the software has been improved and refined, he has involved us in every stage of its development. From being a system that required new calculations for every stage of the process, WinTess has become a genuine design and construction tool (CAD/CAM) providing support for our skills.

    With the benefit of experience, technical improvements and an increasingly qualified team, we have been able to diversify our activity. Now working alongside some of our children, we began developing a series of renewable energy solutions in 2009, specifically in the biogas sector under the brand Upbiogas. Once again we recognised the importance of innovation and, in collaboration with the university and Ramon Sastre, have developed the world’s first software for calculating roof structures for biogas digesters. We have managed to rationalise and reduce risk in the calculation and dimensioning of every element for the development of single- or double-membrane roofs for digesters. The software is very complete, offering calculations based on stresses, anchorage, storage volume, gas pressure and pattern-cutting for particular roof geometries.

    As the company has developed, our research has particularly concentrated on managing the energy consumption of the pumps used for inflation. As a result, we have rejected stitching in favour of high-frequency welding, often double welding. A testing system currently under construction will allow us to test resistance and air-tightness before installing a roof. This process will enable us to increase the resistance and durability of the welding, but also to control internal pressure because there will no longer be any air lost via the holes made by stitching. So we are producing inflatable structures that are more or less airtight, with pressure control. Air pumps will function only when necessary. In this way, the volume of air inside the structure is not affected by external loads and tension, which is essential for withstanding wind or snow. Being able to control all these parameters means that we can precisely define coefficients and the limits of resistance and establish a security protocol. We work with textiles that are 100% recyclable, even at the end of their life. Following the establishment of the Texyloop system, even the smallest pieces can now be recycled. What motivates us at TP Arquitectura i Construcció Tèxtil is the creation of one-off pieces that are lasting and safe, the product of our long years of experience.

    Bouncing Bridge

    We originally came across pictures of the Bouncing Bridge on social media. We were really impressed with AZC’s project and naturally wanted to track them down to congratulate them and to propose our collaboration. It is unusual for people outside of the world of textile constructions to conceive a project that is striking in its design and almost entirely realisable. AZC’s reply was immediate and we quickly got to work making a first prototype at 1:10 to test the behaviour of the inflatable structure and the trampoline mesh. A second model at 1:3, produced thanks to updates to WinTess, confirmed the viability of the project.From the first picture we saw of the Bouncing Bridge we were certain that this project was realisable. There was plenty of work to do and technical issues that needed resolving before that could happen, but most importantly the design fitted with the materials to be used. The Bouncing Bridge adventure has introduced us to two architects who, in their experience and professionalism, share our attitude to life and work. They are in touch with the child in us all.  They’re driven by their emotions, which allows them to listen to their craziest ideas – like the one to build a bridge for bouncing on. A trampoline bridge? Why not!

    The Peace Pavilion

    The Peace Pavilion benefitted greatly from the tests carried out for the Bouncing Bridge. We were already aware of the capabilities of each of the project’s participants. That allowed for a real dialogue to be established: the designs were developed as the technical team modified and checked them. This time we knew that we wouldn’t be able to make any test models. WinTess was very useful for conceiving this project. Following his experiences on the Bouncing Bridge, Ramon Sastre developed the software’s capabilities, tailoring it to requirements. Despite its apparent simplicity, the Peace Pavilion demanded a rigorous approach because the beauty of its shape stems from the infinite variety of perspectives it offers. One never knows with an inflatable structure whether one has succeeded until it is inflated. During manufacture it is little more than a pile of fabric. Once the design is defined, we have to be meticulous in the organisation at each stage of the manufacturing process. The roof of the Peace Pavilion, a surface area of 49.8 sq m, was made from 132 pieces. It was a real challenge to calculate this canopy, made in pre-tensioned PVC. The shape’s complexity required precision to the millimetre to avoid any folds. Thanks to the performance of the pattern-cutting software, the precise cutting by numerical control and the quality of the welding, we achieved the perfect dimensions. In textile architecture, pre-tensioned PVC usually deviates by 0.5%. That means that the roof needs to be 0.5% smaller than the structure so that it will attain the correct dimensions when it is under the necessary tension. Unfortunately, at the pressure required for the structure, the diameter of the tube increased by 1% and required us to modify the dimensions of the roof. Using the final dimensions, we tested various loads in order to verify rigidity and define the dimensions of the roof in pre-tensioned textile. The Peace Pavilion is a jewel. Its design is very beautiful, very simple, and very delicate. Realising it required the most advanced technologies and all the skill that comes from many years of experience.

    The Flower Pavilion

    The Bouncing Bridge and the Peace Pavilion are both integral objects. To build them requires the assembly of a number of different pieces but once constructed they become one single element – an inflated tube – that is both horizontal and vertical, wall and roof. The unity and apparent simplicity of the object make both these projects very appealing. The Flower Pavilion is a more architectural project. It takes its inspiration from nature – a flower – to which it adds a material dimension while maintaining the feeling of a natural shelter. Our design needed to be stable, easily disassembled and transportable. To convince the client of the project’s feasibility, we decided to make a prototype. The project’s complexity derived in part from the assembly of the vertical posts with the horizontal roof, each having a different function in terms of forces, and in part in designing the metal structures that encircle the inflatable modules of the roof. Curved structures, like the petals of the pavilion roof, require a particular level of precision because the deformation forces they are subject to are more complex. Plus we had to consider the affect of air pressure on the petals when they are inflated, particularly because the climate in Berlin would require a high-level of air pressure. In order to be able to fit the different petals together and anticipate water run-off, we had to minimise any deformation. Although the shape of the petals themselves was good for working in compression, we nonetheless planned for a thick frame to ensure minimum deformation. When we inflated the various petals, the forces were incredible and we had to reinforce the metal joints that linked the frames because they were deforming by several millimetres more than anticipated. Following adjustments to the pressure and the thickness of the frames, we were able to get the roof right.

    In addition to its technical success, the project generated immediate enthusiasm. During testing near our premises, the children of the neighbouring village, intrigued by this flower, quickly came to join us. We made the most of their energy to test the solidity of the pavilion by getting them to bounce on its inflatable roof. And an engineer friend who teaches agronomy at the Institut la Garrotxa in Olot, wanted to use the project for the Temps de Flors festival, which each year fills the city of Girona with flowers.