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2023 | Buch

Architecture Beyond the Cupola

Inventions and Designs of Dante Bini


Über dieses Buch

This book reviews Dante Bini’s inventions and designs, focusing on his form-resistant Binishell and other pneumatic construction systems. Dante Bini’s double profile of architect and builder underpins the narrative of the entire book. It is used to analyse the evolution of the early reinforced-concrete Binishell patent into a variety of automated construction systems based on the use of air. Dante Bini has always been quite proactive in promoting his work and disseminating the results of his experimentations and achievements via journal articles, conference presentations and public talks; promotional brochures in multiple languages were also prepared to export and license his patents in various countries, from Italy to the Americas and Australia. Despite this, a rigorous study of Dante Bini’s work is still unavailable, and the relevance of this figure to contemporary architecture has yet to be discussed comprehensively. This book fills in this gap and arrives at the right time: during the last two decades, there has been an exponential interest in shell and spatial structures, particularly concerning the use of complex geometries and innovative construction techniques.

This book will be of interest to academics in architectural design, theory and construction history, and practitioners and students interested in expanding their knowledge in the design and construction of shell and spatial structures.


Chapter 1. The Invention of the Binishell
This chapter is dedicated to the invention of the Binishell. It sheds light on the multifaceted figure of the Italian architect Dante Bini, who is an inventor, a designer, and an adventurous entrepreneur. This chapter also provides the context in which Bini developed his construction systems and illustrates the experimental and empirical nature of a singular design culture of the 1960s.
Alberto Pugnale, Alberto Bologna
Chapter 2. A New Archetypal Hut in Structural Art
This chapter constructs a theoretical narrative through which the Binishell can be interpreted as a new archetypal hut in structural art. The archetypal hut can be defined as a natural and pragmatic response to the human need for shelter: the perfect synthesis between architectural and structural form and its construction. Similarly, the Binishell system can also be seen as a very rational response to the need to build more efficient and economical buildings that require fewer resources during their construction and throughout their lifespan. The chapter also investigates and discusses the spatial and tectonic qualities of the Binishell and the other systems that have been derived from this invention.
Alberto Pugnale, Alberto Bologna
Chapter 3. Beyond the “Cubic Prison”
This chapter highlights how the Binishell system has evolved to better respond to the challenging task of organising human life inside a space with no orthogonal elements or conventional doors and windows. The chapter describes how the limits of the original Binishell patent became a source of inspiration for Bini and led to the development of other automated construction systems, such as the Minishell and the Pack-Home. These inventions also inspired Bini’s son—Nicolò—to redesign a fluid and non-modular contemporary version of the Binishell system with the idea of investing in construction innovation to address the current sustainability issues of the built environment.
Alberto Pugnale, Alberto Bologna
Chapter 4. Open, Sesame: Cuts and Openings
The Binishell system uses an airtight pneumatic membrane to erect a concrete shell, creating an impenetrable fortress that literally has to be “broken” to be accessed and used. The chapter concentrates on the compositional aspects of designing openings in Binishell structures. Openings are clustered into two categories: those that are created at the base of the structure, such as the openings of the cupola of the Hagia Sophia Grand Mosque, and those designed at the apex of the dome, for example, the oculus of the Pantheon in Rome. The final part of the chapter describes the construction systems that were derived from the Binishell, that is, the Minishell and the recent System A developed by Nicolò Bini, in which the openings are automatically generated during the construction process.
Alberto Pugnale, Alberto Bologna
Chapter 5. Lunar Bases on Earth: Intersections and Repetitions
This chapter focuses on the concepts of modularity and standardisation in relation to the design of Binishells. It begins by illustrating projects in which modular Binishell structures have been repeated to create assemblies of buildings that affect and interact with the design of the surrounding landscape. The geometric intersection of Binishells is then introduced to understand how larger-span structures and more complex architectural-structural bodies can be created using a modular system, as in the case of the Narrabeen North Public School or the Space City Shopping Centre in Australia. The chapter also discusses the geometric and structural variations and complexity made possible by recent parametric modelling tools and digital fabrication techniques. In this context, Nicolò Bini’s systems and projects demonstrate how Dante Bini’s legacy can be a powerful source of inspiration to define future non-modular design and construction innovation strategies.
Alberto Pugnale, Alberto Bologna
Chapter 6. Dante Bini’s Legacy Beyond the Cupola
This chapter uses Nicolò Bini’s explorations to discuss how the concept of construction innovation can unfold in a period in which free-form architecture and even purely virtual designs seem to take priority over tectonics and the material and performative aspects of buildings. The chapter primarily focuses on a villa in Malibu that Nicolò designed for Robert Downey Jr: a building that represents the latest evolution of the Binishell system originally invented by Dante Bini in 1964. The aim is to discuss the complex relationship that exists between digital design and construction automation in a particularly fascinating period of contemporary architecture: the apparent anti-tectonic nature of Greg Lynn’s inform BLOBs is more than ever linked to the invention of new construction and fabrication systems, thus strengthening the relationship between architectural form and its construction.
Alberto Pugnale, Alberto Bologna
Architecture Beyond the Cupola
verfasst von
Alberto Pugnale
Alberto Bologna
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Print ISBN