Last Thursday  a crowd of students stood transfixed on the terrace behind the Chace Center as a small fan slowly blew into a swath of shiny material laid out along the concrete. As the fan whirred, an elephantine inflatable (top photo) began to take shape. “It looks like an alien pod,” someone murmured.

Matt Muller 14 FD and August Lehrecke 14 FD made the 30-foot mylar sphere to show as part of Material Lessons, the Furniture Design department’s two-day symposium. But before the team could show off their inflatable, they had to move the installation from Market Square to the sheltered terrace due to strong wind gusts. 

“The dome can’t withstand this weather,” explained Muller while leaning his body against its walls. “This is a learning experience for us. The next [iteration] will include interior ribbing to make sure [the dome] retains its spherical shape in windy environments.”

After graduating in May, Muller and Lehrecke plan to leverage this practical knowledge to launch their own company specializing in custom inflatable structures designed to house pop-up gallery spaces or video projections. “Because the mylar is transparent, it creates an experiential setting,” notes Muller.

Assistant Professor Peter Dean BArch 77 expressed interest in the way the two assembled the dome. “If you look closely, you can see that the pieces of mylar are trapezoids and hexagons,” he noted while standing in the middle of the inflatable. “The straight lines of the shapes allows [the designers] to connect the pieces quickly using strips of tape. It’s an efficient design.”