Frei Otto – Tuwaiq Palace

About the Building:

  • Recipient of the Aga Khan Award for Architecture, 1998.
  • enclosed by inclined curved walls, forming a sinuous curvilinear spine 800 m long, 12 m high, and 7-13 m wide, used for guest services and accommodations
  • outdoor sports facilities, gardens, and extensive landscaping laid out in a pattern of complementary spirals, circles, and curves, in harmony with the building’s undulations
  • Mushrooming from the spine are tents supported by tensile-structure technology
  • design makes reference to two local archetypes – the fortress and the tent
  • The tents enclose the large-scale spaces: main lounges, reception areas, multi-purpose halls, restaurants, and a café
  • dramatic contrast between the lush greenery of the outdoor spaces enclosed by the spine and the arid rocky plateau beyond its walls
  • The white tents are made of Teflon-coated, woven fibre fabric
  • The tents are enclosed by glass walls

LIFE:

  • Began experimenting with tents for shelter
  • After the war he studied briefly in the United States
  • Visited Erich Mendelsohn, Mies van der Rohe, Richard Neutra, and Frank Lloyd Wright
  • Began private practice in Germany in 1952

Awards

  • 1974 Thomas Jefferson Medal in Architecture
  • 1996/7 Wolf Prize in Architecture
  • 2005 RIBA Royal Gold Medal

Style:

  • authority on lightweight tensile and membrane structures
  • concerned with space frames and structural efficiency
  • experimented with inflatable buildings

Inflatable buildings:

  • structure constructed using two layers of membrane connected together
  • cavity formed between the layers is pressurized with air producing a rigid structural element
  • pavilions, airships, furniture, airspace structures, boats, escape slides, security mattresses, swimming pools, coverings, games and castles, air bags

Academics

  • Otto founded the famous Institute for Lightweight Structures at the University of Stuttgart in 1964

List of Buildings:

  • 1967 – West Germany Pavilion at Expo 67 Montreal
  • 1970 – Tuwaiq Palace, Saudi Arabia, with Buro Happold
  • 1972 – Roof for Olympic Stadium, Munich
  • 2000 – Roof structure of the Japanese Pavilion at Expo 2000, Hanover Germany (provided engineering assistance with Buro Happold and architectural collaboration with Shigeru Ban)

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