The Inflatable Moment

Pneumatics and Protest in '68

A book accompanying the 1998 exhibition at The Architectural League

In the turbulent year 1968, student protests in Paris and around the world challenged established authority. To a group of architecture students at the École des Beaux-Arts calling themselves Utopie, the idea of the inflatable held a promise of mobility, movement, energy, and escape. Strongly influenced by American military technology and comic books—as well as by the work of Buckminster Fuller, Henru Lefebvre, Jean Baudrillard, and London’s Archigram—the Utopie group envisioned an ideal world of pneumatic furniture, structures, and envrionments.

While the Utopie architects were unable to realize their dream of a society literally built on air, their fanciful, exuberant, witty, and highly detailed drawings remain some of the most extraordinary in modern architecture.

The Inflatable Moment documents this collision of architectural, social, and political forces. It presents a complete, annotated catalog of the designs of the Utopie architects, showcased along with other inflatable experiments of the period; recent reflections from the three architects, Jean Aubert, Jean-Paul Jungmann, and Antoine Stinco, accompany essays on the pneumatic phenomenon and the intellec­tual history of the Utopie group.

"The Inflatable Moment celebrates a time when if you didn't have an idea, you just didn't show up." —–Herbert Muschamp, The New York Times
"The designs of [these] architects ... offer a vivid image of the counter- cultyral preoccupations, pop fashions, and techno-enthusiasm of the 1960s avant-garde.” ——John Ockman, Metropolis