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Pabellón inflable para la XXII Bienal de Arquitectura y Urbanismo de Chile

Smiljan Radić Studio

Santiago, Área Metropolitana, Chile

January 2023


Smiljan Radić Clarke (Leading architect)


Nicolas Schmidt Kamp (Associate Architect), Pablo Schmidt Kamp (Associate Architect)


XXII Bienal de Arquitectura de Chile


Benjamín Wilson


This structure was an immediate, pragmatic and chary response to the Biennial request: to build an enclosure capable to house up to 350 spectators (in this case, that meant 775 sq m deflated and 4,340 cu m inflated) within a budget of US$38,000.

The Biennial aimed to shift the architectural debate from secluded spaces to the public domain. The inflatable provided a light ambiance that offered shelter from the summer temperatures and sun radiation; its thin membrane created an unexpected and ambiguous boundary with the city realm, offering a soft interior with no corners nor distinctions between walls, floor and ceiling. The tent-like space housed all meetings, conferences and ceremonies of the Biennial; its scale and non-directional field condition welcomed the different kinds of collective events of the Biennial.


Built in January 2023 for the Chilean Biennial of Architecture and Urbanism, the inflatable hall is a temporary infrastructure that was installed for ten days in Plaza de la Ciudadanía, at the core of the Ministries district, facing La Moneda –the Chilean Government Palace built in the 18th century– in Santiago.
This structure sat along the major urban axis in town, standing as a soft, somehow shapeless body amongst a row of highrises and historical buildings.


The temporary meeting hall introduced a minor novelty to the long history of inflatable structures. It was built using Global Foil, a membrane composed of two outer layers of silver Mylar and a middle layer of polyethene bubble wrap. The joints between sheets were made having three layers of 140 mm wide transparent adhesive tape and a 50 mm wide fibreglass mesh tape. At each of these joints, a gap of about 20 mm between sheets allowed natural light to pass through.
During ten days, hundreds of visitors entered the hall to attend lectures, debates and celebrations, shifting the monumental character of this urban spot to a more festive and informal mood. The hall allowed different settings for the meetings: sometimes people sat in a circle around the speaker and a larger screen –resembling an auditorium– or sometimes they gather in smaller groups around digital screens scattered all over the floor, as if they were bonfires on the beach or TVs in separated lounges.
The nature of the membrane and the construction system deployed resulted in an extremely fragile building. It evoqued working with those degrees of insecurity of which Andrea Branzi was so fond.

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