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.
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... Considering the construction process and the geometry formed, there are four possible families of surface moulds where concrete could be applied: mechanically prestressed membranes, pneumatically prestressed membranes, free hanged membranes under gravity force, and membranes regularly supported throughout its surface. Accordingly to the technique used, the final geometry can result in funicular synclastic shells, as Isler experiments (Chilton ), pneumatic synclastic shells, as the structures made by Dante Bini (Pugnale and Bologna ), or anticlastic shells (Veenendaal and Block ). Different geometries can also be achieved by combining those techniques or using auxiliary structures as sliding cables, masts and precast elements. ...
This paper proposes the discussion on design and construction of thin shells structures based on experimental models produced with flexible surface moulds. Recent researches have proposed alternative flexible formworks, composed by textiles membranes or films, stressed by different techniques. Among the alternative production techniques explored here are pneumatic molds, hanging fabrics and prestressed fabrics. The use of different formwork conceptions and materials to produce experimental models allowed identifying some critical aspects of the production process, as well as design limitations. Some previous tabletop models indicated that the viability of the flexible formwork relies on well-specified concrete, especially regarding rheology, adherence to the molds and shrinkage stresses.
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.
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