A Beginner’s Guide to Inflatable Architecture


We here at Flavorpill have spent a ton of time looking at tiny houses, cabin porn, bunkie retreats, and gypsy wagons. What can we say, understanding how to live simply in small spaces is the glorious plight of the creative young professional trying to make a home in the modern world. Enter our latest obsession: bubbletecture.

First introduced back in the sixties by Ant Farm, the wonderfully wacky experimental design collective most known for the ten Cadillacs that they buried nose down in a wheat field in Texas, their early explorations of air and plastic culminated in a seminal DIY manual, Inflatocookbook, that offered instructions for making cheap inflatables at home using recycled polyethylene, tape, and used fans from Goodwill. Incorporating some of their homegrown recipes for making a blow-up building of your very own, click through to check out our look at bubbletecture past and present. We want know — could you live in a bubble? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below!

At a Glance

Image credit: Chip Lord; We Make Money Not Art

Clean Air Pod performance at University of California, Berkeley, 1970; 50×50 Foot Pillow, used as a medical pavilion at the Rolling Stones free concert at Altamont, 1969

To take a heady trip down memory lane, the first inflatable structures were a reaction to Brutalist mid-century architecture aka those massive, ugly concrete buildings now associated with old school government buildings and shopping malls. A response to the cold, austere design, inflatable architecture was cheap, easy to transport, and quick to assemble.

As Spatial Agency, a contemporary critique agency, writes, “this type of architecture fit well with the rhetoric of nomadic, communal lifestyles that were in opposition to the rampant consumerism of 1970s USA. The inflatables questioned the standard tenets of building: these were structures with no fixed form and could not be described in the usual architectural representations of plan and section. They instead promoted a type of architecture that moved away from a reliance on expert knowledge.” All hail the early days of DIY and handmade homesteads.

Getting Started

Image credit: Inflatocookbook via MIT; AllinSafety; Amazon

We’ve taken a page from Ant Farm’s informative and hilarious DIY guide that shows how to make the most basic of inflatable pillow structures. There’s even a template for a nifty flag to cut out and fly over your new grown-up fortress.

Read through and download the entire design “cookbook” over at MIT’s web archive.

The Basics

Image credit: Pak Sheung Chuen via designboom

Don’t make the mistake of thinking you can blow up your bubble dwelling yourself. Get a fan, or consider renting a small generator. Heed the advice of team Ant Farm and know that “funky generators eat fan motors!”

Best Practices

Image credit: libarynth; archdaily

OK, so you have a little blow-up building of your own, but now what? What to do in it/ with it? Take cues from the experts and make it your dream cloud on the beach, host a dinner under an overpass or an intimate movie night inside your own inflatable cinerama dome.

Sky’s the Limit

Image credit: CasaBubble; Raumlabor-Berlin via inhabitat

Once you have the basics down, expand on your work. Maybe you started with a small, inflatable yard bubble. Consider moving on to a shed, a house, a sizeable greenhouse, or your very own pavilion to entertain friends and host mega dance parties.