Its designers are constantly exploring new materials to build with and it so happened that the material it found for its latest project – the String Prototype, which is a self-supporting inflatable box with a grid consisting of hundreds of ropes inside – was stumbled upon quite by accident.

As industrial designer Christoph Katzler explains, it was while developing a previous project called Net Blow-up that the idea for the String Prototype struck. The designers were searching for an inflatable skin that could support multiple layers of flexible nets suspended within.

“We were developing our project Net Blow-up and I went to visit companies who could build the skin. There I saw some ugly inflated advertising cubes and asked how they were made and if I could take a look inside. And, believe it or not, inside it consisted of a grid of pink ropes that was actually able to carry our weight,” says Katzler.

With this information, he headed back to the design studio to create models from this strong fabric used for such inflatable structures. “From these models we discovered how strong the skin is and that it is able to carry heavy weights inside it,” he adds.

How the String Prototype works is that as the structure is inflated through the use of a pump, and the ropes which are attached to the structure from the inside are stretched until they are taut in a perfect grid, the structure is kept upright.

Having perfected the model, Numen/For Use went on to create a full-size prototype, which measures 6 x 8 x 4.5 metres and features 400 ropes inside equating to 3 kilometres of rope. They then found some willing participants to test out the design.

“They all seemed to like it and were surprised at how much bigger it feels inside as you lose the feeling for distance,” says Katzler. “Many of them left with a thankful smile on their face – they looked enthusiastic. This is nice to see.”

Following feedback, the designers have further developed the rope connections. Although the sculpture was created without a commission in mind, since launching the prototype Numen/For Use has received numerous invitations to have it exhibited at events for people to enjoy as they find themselves entrapped in a 3D grid, which rather resembles a Dadaist collage. 

www.numen.eu

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