Marco Canevacci is not your typical architect. A member of Berlin-based architectural collective Plastique Fantastique, Canevacci isn’t interested in building buildings. Instead, he and a long list of collaborators have over the last decade and a half perfected the art of non-building. They specialize in impermanent, inflatable structures that Canevacci alternately describes as soap bubbles, pneumatic machines, and loupes (French for magnifying glasses).
These pop-up hubs are temporary experiments that, unlike traditional buildings, can be squeezed into any urban scenario or configuration. The group’s latest project, Aeropolis, spreads 13 different bubbles all over Copenhagen. This is Plastique Fantastique’s largest venture yet, and it won’t be around for long.
Designed and installed for the 2013 Metropolis Festival, the bubbles function as event spaces for art, music, and dance performances. The structures, which are made from fireproof PVC, were erected in six of the city’s districts, with some wedged under a bridge or tucked between trees, and others anchored to a public square or the inside of a church. Visitors enter through a zipper opening, while heavy-duty ventilators maintain air pressure in the teardrop-shaped rooms. Inside, guests can participate in yoga classes, sit in on a lecture, or recline and take in the starry night sky.
Canevacci says the Aeropolis structures were calibrated to every one of the different sites in order heighten the particularity of each. "The goal is to use the bubbles as a tool to investigate [a site’s] urban and social issues in a playful approach," Canevacci tells Co.Design. "We wanted to invite people to explore a path through the city of Copenhagen." So that tour is always an individualized and meandering one, the structures are only vaguely linked.
The bubbles were all inflated in less than 20 minutes—a huge improvement, Canevacci says, over the years it takes to complete the average architectural process. The team was able to deploy each of the structures with a precision unheard of in typical construction. These advantages are part of what attracted Canevacci to short-lived projects, which he maintains rival permanent buildings in their power to transform a time and place.
"The pneumatic structure is a medium to experience the same physical setting in a temporary extraordinary situation," he says. For the Plastique Fantastique team, the bubbles are small laboratories that operate on the urban spaces they come to occupy. And just like that, they’re gone.