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Until February 14, the Cité de l’architecture et du Patrimoine tells us the story of the joyful epic of the inflatable, through an exhibition of 250 works, including some monumental pieces in its permanent galleries.

It was a curious destiny for these masses of matter, designed to capture the air. Born in the hands of the Montgolfier brothers in the 18th century, the pneumatic tire was used for military, industrial, and economic purposes until the Hindenburg disaster in 1937, when the German airship of the same name caught fire in New Jersey. The inflatable was manifested again with the use of rubber at Michelin and Goodyear, and it found a completely different function in its nylon version with the architect Frank Lloyd Wright. The American developed the “Airhouse,” a building without foundations, which is accessible and economical. Just like the world of architecture, the art world was quick to seize it, starting with Otto Piene, co-founder of the ZERO group, with the ambition of redefining the art of the post-World War II period. His format met with a certain success, in the context of playful installations, notably at the Universal Exhibitions. It gave rise to spectacular creations, such as the Fuji Pavilion, presented at the Osaka Exhibition in 1970, designed by the Japanese architect Yutaka Murata.

Plastic also allowed inflatable furniture to make its entry into the home, notably through the work of Quasar Khanh, with his iconic furniture with a pop image.
Although the oil crises put a stop to this crazy trajectory, it found renewed interest with the architects of the 2000s (Rem Koolhaas, Anish Kapoor, Herzog & de Meuron) in search of ephemerality and freedom.

By Lisa Agostini