02.05.2022 Sandra Hofmeister

Hans-Walter Müller’s Pneumatic Architecture

Hans-Walter Müller with his electric scooter in the "Ballon Transparent" during a ride through the city centre of Paris on the occasion of World Environment Day 2001, © Hans-Walter Müller / Marie-France Vesperini

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“Why inflatable architecture? Because it bears us off into another world, gets us thinking and lets us forget what we learned at school, enabling us to become ourselves again”. This is how Hans-Walter Müller summarises his life’s work dedicated to pneumatic architecture. The German engineer, architect and artist has been dealing with inflatable volumes for over 50 years and in 1971 moved his studio complete with workshop and home into one of his air-supported structures in La Ferté-Alais near Paris. Since then, Müller has been working incessantly on gonflables, as his pneumatic architectural designs are called in French.

Belvédère, La Ferté-Alais, 1975/2010, © Lukas Schaller

Inflatable volumes

Few uses have escaped Hans-Walter Müller’s attention. He designs single-wall air-supported structures for exhibitions and theatrical projects, as temporary shopping centres or contact points for refugees. Further examples include inflatable volumes for the Comédie Française, for Parisian operas and ballet performances by Maurice Béjart.

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The 800-seat theatre he developed in 1969 for Fondation Maeght in Saint-Paul-de-Vence has been the scene of various productions. The engineer’s catalogue of works also features a church at Montigny-lès-Cormeilles, weighing barely 40 kg and inflatable within 10 minutes.

„Forum culturel du canton de Neuchâtel”, 1994, © Hans-Walter Müller / Marie-France Vesperini

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Over the years Müller has come up with novel fastening systems and ingenious solutions for air exchange and loss of pressure at the entrances to his volumes. He uses high-frequency welding machines to fabricate rooms and ensembles out of thin plastic sheets, cut to size. His lightweight structures made of dyed, opaque and transparent materials can be moved from place to place, making them as transient as his own studio: „My house must perish. L’architectur doit mourir avec son utilisateur“, says Müller, who flatly refused when two years ago his complex in La Ferté-Alais was to be placed under preservation orders.

„Le Cyclop“, access building to a walk-in sculpture by Jean Tinguely, Milly-la-Fôret 2018, © Hand-Walter Müller
„Une architecture en mouvement“ São Paulo 2010, © Hans-Walter Müller / Marie-France Vesperini

Homage to a life’s work

Today Hans-Walter Müller‘s air domes, his air-supported roofs and volumes are scattered all over the world, each creating a special interior atmosphere that is as ephemeral as it is fleeting. Until 18 June, the Tyrolean Architecture Centre in Austria is staging an exhibition titled "ich habe die schwerkraft schon verlassen” in tribute to the tireless innovator of air-supported structures.

„Klangstruktur mit Resonanzkugel“, La Ferté-Alais 2019, © Hans-Walter Müller

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A book by Robert Stürzl and published by Spector Books accompanies the exhibition, providing an overview of Müller’s oeuvre in German for the first time ever. Plus, a film made by Lukas Schaller in connection with the exhibition portrays the engineer, architect and artist in his workshop in La Ferté-Alais.

Read more in Detail 5.2022 and in our databank Detail Inspiration.


Exhibition: Hans-Walter Müller: ich habe die schwerkraft schon längst verlassen
Exhibition location: aut. architektur und tirol, Lois Welzenbacher Platz 1, 6020 Innsbruck (AT)
Exhibition duration: March 4th to June 18th 2022
Opening hours: Tuesday to Friday 11 am–6 pm, Saturday 11 am–5 pm, closed on holidays


Further information: aut.cc
Publication: Robert Stürzl (ed.), Hans-Walter Müller und das lebendige Haus, 232 pp. with 260 illustrations, Spector Books 2022

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