NEWmatics: Pneumatically Actuated Inflatables for Responsive and Dynamic Architecture

Stephanie Smid


NEWmatics is a CMU School of Architecture Masters Thesis project by Stephanie Smid. The project reflects on the history of inflatable architecture and explores how computational design and digital fabrication can be used to create complex dynamic structures. This thesis looks at both traditional and emerging techniques, drawing inspiration from fields such as garment patterning and soft robotics.

The work is broken up into two distinct parts.

Part one acts as a case study in better understanding the nuances of inflatable architecture: construction, constraints, and material behavior are the three main areas of focus. The result of this research is a 16-foot tall occupiable inflatable built collaboratively within a team of three for a concert held at Carnegie Mellon University (pictured above).

Part two (pictured below) is individual research that expounds upon material behavior and looks at ways in which inflatables can be used in both deflated and inflated states. The transformative properties of these inflatables can begin to bridge the gap between soft robotics and kinetic architecture.

By exploring actuation through patterns embedded into the material itself, adaptive surfaces can be integrated into the built environment that require less maintenance and retain a longer lifespan.