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Massive inflatable structures popped up in the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoaʻs historic quad on December 10. Crowds filled the lawn between Hawaiʻi Hall and the Architecture Building to get a glimpse of the ʻpneumaticʻ structures (giant inflatable spaces) designed and built by about 40 UH Mānoa second-year architecture students. The structures were made of sheets of plastic the students seamed together with soldering and clothing irons.

Everyday household standing fans inflated the inhabitable spaces, some of which could hold about 70 people inside. The exhibit was a final project for students in Architecture 235, a second-year design studio course.

“There’s a lot of calculations behind the scenes where they’re trying to figure out the square footage, volume, trying to anticipate how the inflatables will look when they’re built,” said architecture Professor Lance Walters, who teaches the course.

The students used technical drawings, computer renderings and collages to rethink and conceptualize their displays. A total of nine structures were built by six teams.

UH Mānoa architecture major Pia Solis and her team designed a dome-like structure incorporating more intricate shapes like trapezoids, hexagons and pentagons.

“We were inspired by honeycombs, so that was our inspiration for the shapes and we wanted something different rather than having rectangles and squares,” said Solis.

The annual project gives beginning architecture students a rare opportunity to actually build a full size, inhabitable structure that they can enter. This is the seventh year the inflatable structures were displayed on the lawn.

Pneumatic structures on the quad

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