Artists: Raumlabor
Location: Manhattan and Brooklyn, New York City, USA
Year of completion: 2009
Researcher: Cameron Cartiere

Spacebuster is a mobile, inflatable structure designed to “transform public spaces of all kinds into points for community gathering.” Commissioned by Storefront for Art and Architecture and created by Berlin-based interdisciplinary group Raumlabor, Spacebuster is essentially a giant bubble that expands from the back of a van. It is inflatable architecture in its simplest and most mobile form. As is common with such structures, the shape and form of the translucent inflatable adjusts to its surroundings, creating a different pavilion-like condition wherever it is parked. Over its ten day run in New York City in 2009, Spacebuster occupied a range of urban conditions—from an open field to a narrow lot beneath the High Line.

The Raumlabor architecture team believes that anyone can build their own Spacebuster, as the materials used are relatively simple and readily available: a fan, plastic sheeting (Visqueen), double-sided tape, and weights to shape the bubble and hold it in place. It is a type of egalitarian architecture that offers up an appropriate concept in light of the ongoing economic challenges of our current global economy. The goal of the project was to reclaim public space, bring people together, and create a new sense of community. The 2009 version of Spacebuster hosted lectures, exhibitions, and screenings for a total of ten events throughout Manhattan and Brooklyn.

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Spacebuster returned to New York in 2011 as part of the Festival of Ideas for the New City. One of the socially engaged activities offered in Spacebuster invited the public to construct and assemble wooden chairs designed specifically for the event. The chairs were subsequently used for the lectures and performances held in the inflated space.

Spacebuster was an example of quasi-utopian, nomadic architecture that sees its roots in the 1970s inflatables such as the Fuji Group Pavilion at the Expo in Osaka, Japan (1970) and Ant Farm inflatables (1971) which also produced a guide to similar designs titled, Inflatocookbook, For Ant Farm, the inflatable was a vision of “what environment can mean when a person takes it in his own hands, feeling it and molding new forms.”

The first iteration of Spacebuster, known as Kitchen Monument (Küchenmonument), was initially installed in Berlin and was used as a community kitchen as a means of creating community engagement. Neighbors were invited out into public spaces to cook for one another. In 2006, Kitchen Monument traveled across three countries (England, Germany, Poland) and engaged with the public in Duisburg, Giessen, Hamburg, Liverpool, Mülheim, and Warsaw.

As an overarching principle of the architecture practice, Raumlabor is interested in how people can interact with architecture and space. They have design several inflatable mobile units (“mobile activators”) including Rosy (the ballerina) for Portavillion (2010, United Kingdom) that traveled to 15 locations in the London. Rosy provided space for dance events, performances, and discussions at the London Festival for Architecture. Another mobile activator was Big Bang (2009, South Korea), which featured two inflatable spaces in one mobile unit.

In August 2012, Raumlabor took Spacebuster to Detroit as part of a panel discussion called The ArchiCULTURAL Shift as part of the Detroit Design Festival, exploring regeneration strategy for the beleaguered city. There are no other events planned for Spacebuster on the current Raumlabor schedule, but the development of mobile activators and other inflatable elements is an ongoing methodology in the community engaged and social practice of the architecture team of Raumlabor Berlin.

All copyright belongs to Shanghai Academy of Fine Arts, Shanghai University.

Progress Agency