In 1964, the space blanket was developed at the Marshall Space Flight Center by NASA, for the upcoming Apollo missions. Officially classified as metallised polyethylene terephthalate (MPET), it is lightweight, durable, and most importantly, reflective. Because MPET reflects approximately 95% of ultraviolet light, it has become one of the most widely-used industrial materials for packaging, insulation, decoration, and emergency supplies. Following a proposal for a temporary art installation in the woods of Conifer, Colorado, Boston-based designers from Office Ca suggested installing a hyper-lightweight pavilion that repurposes the space blanket. Called Reflector, the installation simultaneously emphasizes both a space blanket’s aesthetic qualities and its material properties. Reflector is a continuous, circular strip of MPET suspended between trees, designed to reflect light into the surround- ing densely wooded area. Its top and bottom sides are given structure by a flexible ring that has been inserted into the material. Suspended by its top ring on a minimal three-point structure, the hanging material takes a slight triangular shape. However, as Reflector’s lower ring is detached, the triangular ring is left to be deformed by external forces. The tension between the above, that pushes to be a triangle, and the below, that insists to be circular, creates a deformed three-dimensional primitive: a real-life “loft.” Reflector is a non-volumetric inflatable that expands, contracts, and dances in the wind. Like a deformed or cracked mirror, it imperfectly reflects its surroundings, existing as a fractured, camouflaged object within a natural landscape. The goal from the outset was to achieve the lightest possible structure with the strongest wind resistance. Its structural top and bottom rings are therefore three one- foot pieces of PVC tubing, inserted as anchors to provide support. The sheets of MPET were sewn together using metallised duct tape, another favorite NASA material, and folded in on themselves at the top and bottom to create two hems. The rings, made of extruded pipe insulation, were inserted into and around the hems.
Designer | Office Ca, Boston, USA
Location | Conifer, USA
Technical info | PVC tubes
Picture credits | Galo Canizares