Architect Nicoló Bini uses a technique similar to covering a balloon with papier-mâché to build his concrete Binishell domed homes. He starts with a two-dimensional shape on the ground, adds wooden form around an air bladder and reinforcing steel rebar, and then places a load of concrete that sets and slowly rises from the ground. Hit the jump to learn more about these unusual structures.
This strange building technique combines an ancient building material with a modern-day aesthetic. It was pioneered by Nicoló’s father Dante, who built the first Binishell in 1964 (which is still standing today.) As the concrete sets around the form and structural support, an air pump is used to fill the bladder beneath. The concrete rises to reach its final shape, after which the bladder is deflated and removed for reuse. The tiny bubble-shaped structures are meant to be permanent homes and, according to Nicoló, have survived extreme conditions such as lava, ash and earthquakes on Mount Etna for 50 years.
There are over 1,600 Binishells built across the globe, ranging from those 120 feet in diameter to tiny bungalows built in developing countries. Nicoló believes the structures can be implemented to different typologies-schools, military bases and stadiums. The construction costs for Binishells start at $3,500 and concrete mixes and rebar can be locally sourced or bought almost anywhere.