Project

Dante Bini’s New Architectural Formulae: a history of Binishells and other Bini systems

Goal: Italian architect Dante Bini began his studies on shell structures during the 1960s. He developed and refined a form-finding and construction technique to erect a finished large-span reinforced concrete (RC) shell structure through the use of an inflatable membrane. This system was patented in 1964, under the name ‘Binishell’, and was applied to construct hundreds of domes throughout the world.

This project aims to:
- contextualise Dante Bini’s early work within the previous research on pneumatic structures, which began in the 1920s;

- contextualise Dante Bini’s work in the period of great media success for RC shells (1960s);

- understand Mario Salvadori’s role in Bini’s international success;

- study Dante Bini’s Australian experience (1974-1980), including a timeline of the events that defined Dante Bini’s emigration to Australia;

- complete a survey of the Australian Binishells (with detailed information on the archival sources, major alterations and current conditions);

- explore Dante Bini’s double profile—architect and builder—which led him to develop his inventions both architecturally and as commercial products;

- study the relationship between innovation in design and innovation in construction for shell and gridshell designers.

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Alberto Pugnale
added 3 research items
The construction of concrete shells has always been a difficult and expensive procedure. Preparation of complex formworks, as well as placement of curved reinforcing rods require experience and increase the overall cost. Building concrete shells is even more of concern within the Australian context, where the use of simple and rapid technologies has always been a priority. In the Sixties, Italian architect Dante Bini developed and patented a form-finding and construction technique that aimed to solve this issue, the so-called “Binishells”. This paper investigates Dante Bini’s system, from its conception within the Italian environment until the international success which was reached in the USA and Australia.
The Italian architect Dante Bini began his studies on shell structures during the 1960s. He developed and refined a form-finding and construction technique to erect a finished large-span reinforced concrete (RC) shell structure through the use of an inflatable membrane. This system was patented in 1964 under the name ‘Binishell’ and, over the following decades, it has been applied to construct hundreds of domes throughout the world. Bini’s invention fitted perfectly into the Italian post-war tradition, as he was, at the same time, the architect and builder of his structures. A few experimental tests were initially performed in Italy, and the first binishells that he lifted after the patent was filed were also constructed there. Since 1966, as a result of Mario Salvadori’s interest, Bini has been recognised internationally. In 1974 he moved to Australia after the NSW Department of Public Works asked him to realise a set of school facilities using the binishell technology. The construction of concrete shells has always been a difficult and expensive process – the preparation of formworks, as well as the installation of curved reinforcing rods before the concrete is poured, require experience and increase the construction costs. Such problems are particularly relevant in the Australian context, where the use of simple and rapid construction technologies has always been a priority. Dante Bini’s life and the binishell technology have been well documented from the historical point of view. However, a detailed report and contextualisation of Dante Bini’s Australian experience is still missing. A first attempt to survey the Australian binishells has already been published by the authors.2 The focus was on placing Bini’s early work within the previous research on pneumatic structures which began in the 1920s. The narrative of this paper instead starts in the 1960s, a period of great media success for RC shells. First, the origin of binishells is described as a natural consequence of three preceding inventions/patents. A timeline of the events that defined Bini’s emigration to Australia is then provided. A full list of the Australian binishells is also included, with detailed information on the archival sources, major alterations and current conditions.
This paper aims to review Dante Bini’s career, as well as his form-resistant Binishell and other pneumatic construction systems. The role of Mario Salvadori in Bini’s international success works as the introduction to a broader discussion about the relationship between innovation in design and innovation in construction for shell and gridshell designers. The second part of the paper focuses, instead, on Bini’s double profile—architect and builder—which led him to develop his inventions both architecturally and as commercial products.
Alberto Pugnale
added a project goal
Italian architect Dante Bini began his studies on shell structures during the 1960s. He developed and refined a form-finding and construction technique to erect a finished large-span reinforced concrete (RC) shell structure through the use of an inflatable membrane. This system was patented in 1964, under the name ‘Binishell’, and was applied to construct hundreds of domes throughout the world.
This project aims to:
- contextualise Dante Bini’s early work within the previous research on pneumatic structures, which began in the 1920s;
- contextualise Dante Bini’s work in the period of great media success for RC shells (1960s);
- understand Mario Salvadori’s role in Bini’s international success;
- study Dante Bini’s Australian experience (1974-1980), including a timeline of the events that defined Dante Bini’s emigration to Australia;
- complete a survey of the Australian Binishells (with detailed information on the archival sources, major alterations and current conditions);
- explore Dante Bini’s double profile—architect and builder—which led him to develop his inventions both architecturally and as commercial products;
- study the relationship between innovation in design and innovation in construction for shell and gridshell designers.