Golden Balloon. ESA Pavillion Special
Paris
(2011)

Originally conceived for a private educational institution and thought to be located in a semipublic garden in Paris, the Golden Dome is an infra-light building that floats. Externally is a large golden dome and internally is a white space that protects the events, a building that floats and directs its accesses to the entrances of the surrounding buildings and is anchored to the wall of the Boulevard Raspail. Looking from the street the balloon is perceived as a weird golden dome that floats among the trees and buildings. Inwards, the inflatable structure configures a space defined by its points of contact with the ground, its openings related to the surrounding buildings and the big holes that selectively let light in and prevent the columns touching the double membrane.
The shape of this floating building is the direct result of generating a buoyancy of gas contained between the two membranes, an translucent one in the interior and a shiny golden one in the exterior, creating an optimal way to resist the tensional state to which is subjected. Then, the building that floats describes a catenary at full scale which is not necessary to invert anymore. The position of the binding points of both membranes and seams adjusts the geometry of the balloon and therefore the volume of gas contained in each point. This changes the lift force at each point and therefore the local deformation of the membrane. To stabilize it, we propose tension cables connecting the points of contact with the ground, which allows lightening the necessary ballasts to counteract the buoyancy.
Instead of building concrete or water counterweights, the ballasts are transformations of indoor furniture, but transposed in scale, manipulated and taken out of the private realm. A large red velvet and golden Turkish bed will hold roundtable discussions with guests, a manipulated church pulpit will serve as a lectern for presentations and conferences, while a collage of rococo furniture will serve as bar. Like the bourgeois furniture, sensual pleasure is entrusted to inanimate objects, activating space by the system of relations between them and the unconventional use of historical languages.
The inner gas and lower translucent membrane of the dome is used as a light diffuser for led lamps contained inside the inflatable. The interior is a luminous landscape of white light: a perpetual spring high intensity light with soft shadows, almost inexistent. The pavilion is a shelter thought for events, is a pleasure machine for the festive transformation of the school. Presentations, conferences, delivery of diplomas, now become counter routine of work in front of the screen or in the workshop. The pavilion is an infrastructure for days without night, for the endless days of submissions and all kind of events: the perpetual day.