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Is the Inflated Concrete Dome Home Due for a Comeback?

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In 1967, Italian architect Dante Bini staged his first high-profile demonstration of the Binishell, a concrete dome home that stands out among the many mass-produceable micro abodes of the era that promised a revolution in downsized housing. At Columbia University, Bini inflated a huge balloon and poured a concrete shell around it, putting up a 50-foot-tall dome in less than two hours. Speaking to the San Francisco Chronicle years later, he cast the process in terms as simple as "Pressing a button. That's it." The legacy of Bini's design is over 1,600 Binishells built in 23 countries, including some up to 120 feet in diameter. Now, as profiled in Wired, his son is trying to revive the idea, and thinks it would be a perfect fit for disaster housing.

Like a large-scale application of the "coat a blown-up balloon in papier-mâché" grade-school art project, Binishell construction involves building a steel rebar frame around a large inflated bladder, filling it in with concrete, and removing the balloon that gave it shape. What this amounts to is a speedy, low-cost, method of building that can be pulled off with materials that are readily available most everywhere, but unlike traditional disaster housing, Binishells are built to last. Nicoló Bini tells Wired that some "have survived even extreme environments—such as the lava, ash and constant earthquakes on Mount Etna—for almost 50 years."

Not bad for a building method that starts, according to Nicoló, at just $3,500 a pop. And while some of the original Binishells (↓) aren't exactly what you'd call sightly, Nicoló mockups of Binishell 2.0 (↑↓) look pretty cute. There are a few downsides to the design, as wires and pipes can't be routed through the solid shell, and as Wired points out, it's hard to find a good use for the edges of the space envelope. But the father-and-son duo sounds game to take them on, as they're currently seeking permits to build a 900-square-foot prototype of their updated design.

· A Wild Proposal for Domed Houses Made of Inflated Concrete [Wired via Architizer]
· All micro homes coverage [Curbed National]
· All dome homes coverage [Curbed National]