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Dante Bini’s “New Architectural Formulae”: Construction, Collapse and Demolition of Binishells in Australia 1974-2015

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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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Proceedings of the
Society of Architectural Historians
Australia and New Zealand
Vol. 32
Edited by Paul Hogben and Judith O’Callaghan
Published in Sydney, Australia, by SAHANZ, 2015
ISBN: 978 0 646 94298 8
The bibliographic citation for this paper is:
Pugnale, Alberto, and Alberto Bologna. “Dante Bini’s ‘New
Architectural Formulae’: Construction, Collapse and Demolition of
Binishells in Australia 1974-2015.” In Proceedings of the Society of
Architectural Historians, Australia and New Zealand: 32, Architecture,
Institutions and Change, edited by Paul Hogben and Judith
O’Callaghan, 488-499. Sydney: SAHANZ, 2015.
All efforts have been undertaken to ensure that authors have
secured appropriate permissions to reproduce the images
illustrating individual contributions. Interested parties may
contact the editors.
488 | SAHANZ 2015 Conference Proceedings
Alberto Pugnale, University of Melbourne | Alberto Bologna, École Polytechnique
Fédérale de Lausanne
Dante Bini’s “New Architectural Formulae”:
Construction, Collapse and Demolition of Binishells in
Australia 1974-20151
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.
SAHANZ 2015 Conference Proceedings | 489
Bini and the media success of reinforced concrete shells in the 1960s
In the early 1960s, the debate on structural form was vibrant, and the dissemination or
spectacularisation of architectural forms generated through form-finding and analytical
shapes was spreading internationally. However, the application of RC shell construction
techniques that did not require scaffolds or timber formworks still appeared to be pure
fiction. Only in July 1964 was the architect Dante Bini able to materialise that dream, when a
12m diameter RC shell was successfully erected in less than one day in Crespellano, Italy,
through a system that combined a pneumatic formwork with self-shaping reinforcing rods.
Bini’s result, on the one hand, was revolutionary; on the other hand, there is no doubt that
it can be considered as the natural consequence of the stimulus that was provided by the
inspiring context he was living in, namely the incredible media success of RC shells and
form-resistant structures in general.
Several authors of the so-called ‘structural art, to use a term coined in 1960 by Ada Louise
Huxtable3, wer e periodicall y celebrated t hroughout the wor ld. For instance, H arvard Unive rsity
conferred the Charles Elliot Norton Professorship of Poetry to Felix Candela, Richard
Buckminster Fuller and Pier Luigi Nervi in 1962. They became the poets who represented a
new architectural language, which was derived either from classical mathematical principles
or basic structural intuitions.4 Another example is that of the Twentieth Century Engineering
exhibition, which was organised by the Museum of Modern Art in New York (MoMA) in 1964,
exactly while Bini was erecting his first shell in Crespellano. Works of structural engineers
were considered in the international event, and exhibited as true pieces of art.5 Silos, tanks,
cooling towers and industrial/service buildings were all characterised by structural designs
of great iconic impact, and were all presented as new monuments of the contemporary
age. The most relevant ones were the Lowry Air Force Base in Denver (Colorado), the
Sewage treatment plant in Hibbing (Minnesota), the Market hall in Royan (France) and the
Little Sport Palace in Rome (Italy). In this panorama, shells that were built through inflation
were considered as a separate chapter and, for this reason, exhibition curator Arthur Drexler
did not take into account any RC shell based residential architecture (despite the great
achievements that Wallace Neff’s houses had already had at that time6).
1964 is also the year the proceedings of the World Conference on Shell Structures, which
was held in San Francisco in October 1962, were published.7 Papers were presented by the
most important architects and engineers engaged in the development and construction
of RC shell structures, such as Candela, Anton Tedesko and Nicolas Esquillan, as well as
those that dealt with other materials, namely Ildefonso Sánchez del Río, Eladio Dieste and
Frei Otto. Mario Salvadori, who also attended the conference8, was astonished when he
discovered Bini’s invention, which was the perfect, as well as obvious synthesis of three
construction techniques that developed independently. First, the one for in-situ reinforced
concrete shells; second, the inflatable and pneumatic membrane technology for air
structures; third, the self-shaping steel reinforcement.9
Alberto Pugnale and Alberto Bologna | Dante Bini’s “New Architectural Formulae”: Construction, Collapse
and Demolition of Binishells in Australia 1974-2015
490 | SAHANZ 2015 Conference Proceedings
The use of pneumatic formworks to pour concrete stemmed from an idea of Normand W.
Mohr, dating back to 1927, that had already been developed successfully by Neff during
the 1930s and 1940s, as well as by Eliot Noyes, during the 1950s, for his famous houses.10
However, the revolutionary concept of assembling steel reinforcements on the ground,
and subsequently erecting and bending them to reach the desired shapes, was based on
another experimental construction system by James H. Marsh, which was presented at
a congress held in San Francisco under the name of “Lift-Shape” process.11 The author
underlined that such a method was not “presented as a new concept for the design of
shells but rather as a logical construction method that offers comparative speed, safety and
economy, with a minimum need for prefabricated components.12 The steel reinforcement
of Marsh’s domes was formed by a grid of bars, to which a lightweight mesh was linked.
This metallic skeleton was then raised by a crane and temporarily supported in position by
wooden poles. Finally, concrete was sprayed to obtain a thin shell, which in principle was
similar to Nervi’s ferro-cemento.13
At that time, Dante Bini was a clever young architect and builder who foresaw the potential
of an architecture generated though the construction method, which was a synthesis of
his studies on the work of architects such as Adalberto Libera and Candela, as well as of
engineers such as Heinz Isler, Pier Luigi Nervi, Buckminster Fuller and Frei Otto. Bini claimed
to have met these designers during his training, and also to have had the possibility of
discussing the building systems they used to construct their most celebrated architectures.
Bini also revealed that “instead of simply copying” such already well-known building
techniques, he “tried to find faults in these construction methods and improve them” with
his own ideas: “even though reinforced concrete domes and thin shell structures” amazed
him, he “could not accept that the timber or steel temporary formworks to obtain these
sophisticated architectural and artistic engineering expressions, would have cost more than
the final structure.14
However, the idea of reusable prefabricated formworks is not a novelty in the history of
construction: from the early inventions patented by Henri Lossier15 to the systems employed
by Nervi for pouring slabs16, these systems have always represented a cost-ef fective solution
that is able to speed up construction site operations. In this context, Bini’s innovation was
that he invented a prefabricated formwork which could generate form-resistant structures,
such as shells.
Hence, Bini’s merit not only consists in having developed a construction technique which,
as explained by Salvadori “has met with success almost all over the world in the erection
of round domes of large diameter (up to 300 feet) for schools, gymnasiums, and halls”17,
but mainly in having generated “nuove formule architettoniche”18, that is new architectural
formulae, as Bini himself defined them.
In the previously mentioned 1962 conference, the only presented example of shell-covered
residential architecture was the Monsanto House of the Future (Disneyland, California)19,
which was constructed using a glass-fibre reinforced plastic sandwich. In this field, Bini’s
SAHANZ 2015 Conference Proceedings | 491
invention started to animate a completely new research area that did not focus on proposing
new housing types based on form-resistant structures, but on the large-scale diffusion of
stylistic elements derived from the construction technique he patented.
The first two shells that Bini erected in Crespellano and Pegola, Italy, clearly demonstrate
how he, as an architect, was sensitive to the expressive potential of his construction method,
even when he produced his early prototypes. The structural calculations performed by Bini
therefore represented a sophisticated, but also redundant formalism of geometric shapes
used to trim dome bases – such shapes were characterised by a purely ornamental role that
had little to do with the formal engineering research of that period.
Although, on the one hand, Salvadori immediately revealed his interest in Bini’s technique
and extoled the new construction system worldwide, on the other hand, Bini rapidly
developed his stylistic signature through the exploration of possible ways of puncturing his
shells. He started with decorative cuttings at the base and then moved, probably for budget
reasons, to other geometrical definitions for openings, windows and intersections between
shells. Bini’s architecture subconsciously reinterprets the concepts of ‘The new sensualism’
(or ‘stereo-structural sensualism’), which was theorised by Thomas H. Creighton in 1959.20
The “sensuous plasticity” of the binishells makes them look like nostalgic revivals of the
formal attempts which remained pure utopia, with no practical or commercial outcome.
The house that Bini built in 1969 for film director Michelangelo Antonioni in Gallura (Costa
Paradiso), Sardinia21, was the ideological synthesis of Neff’s Bubble House (Falls Church,
Virginia, 1941), Friederick J. Kiesler’s sculptural prototype of the Endless House (1950)22 and
John M. Johansen’s visionary “spray structures” of the mid-1950s.23 It was also a pragmatic
synthesis that only an architect-builder who was capable of inventing and exporting both
architectural stylistic features and effective construction methods worldwide could realise.
It was a business system which, at that time, had already proved to be successful in Italy,
Japan and possibly even in Australia.
Dante Bini’s Australian experience (1974-80)
Dante Bini’s international recognition coincided with a period of considerable expansion
of the “Binishell Spa” company which, in 1971, was already licensing and constructing
pneumatically-erected shells in more than 20 countries. At that time, Bini was mainly
occupied in promoting his system abroad and, as a consequence, a series of changes
in the shares of his company’s stock worked against him. Michelagnoli, Cappellini and
Torniamenti took command in the board of directors and decided, for instance, to move the
head office to Milan.24 Basically Bini was excluded from the administration, and this in turn
led him to explore the potential for investments overseas even more.
In Building with Air25, Bini reported that he first got it touch with the authorities in Australia
in autumn 1971, because the Australian Minister Leon Aston Punch was searching for a
rapid system to build multi-purpose centres, schools and libraries to fulfil the promises he
had made during the electoral campaign. Bini’s contacts were the Agent General based
Alberto Pugnale and Alberto Bologna | Dante Bini’s “New Architectural Formulae”: Construction, Collapse
and Demolition of Binishells in Australia 1974-2015
492 | SAHANZ 2015 Conference Proceedings
in London, David Hughes, and, more directly, the Assistant Principal Architect at the NSW
Department of Public Works, J. W. Thomson, who also organised, according to Bini, a visit
to the Italian structures during the same period.
Reading that book, it seems that Bini’s immigration to Australia followed a rather linear
process. However, the documents archived at the NSW State Records provide a more
articulated version of the story, as well as a different timeline, which shifts it forward by
about two years.26
A report dated 1 June 1973, and signed by J. W. Thomson, describes the visit to the Italian
Binishells as occurring between 21 and 22 May 1973. Details about construction speed and
costs of the binishell system seem to confirm that the NSW Department of Public Works was
looking for a rapid and cost-effective construction technology. Most of the visited structures
served as school gymnasia or small theatres, and this could also lead us suppose that
the department was pondering the pros and cons of similar applications in the Australian
context. However, only in a letter dated 11 July 1973, did Thomson discuss the Educational
Building Programme budget for the first time with Eric Adams, Senior Industrial Promotion
Officer. He wrote in particular about an increase that raised the total amount to $8,000,000
(to be available on 1 January 1974).
On 10 July 1973, Thomson had already confirmed Bini’s first trip to Sydney, with arrival on 6
August 1973.27 This visit would have helped him to decide about his potential immigration,
but also discuss the practical and financial issues involved in using the binishell system
overseas.
On 27 August 1973, after Bini had returned to Italy, Thomson sent a report to Adams entitled:
“Use of dome structures (Binishells) in the school building programme”. At that stage, the
intention of applying the binishell system to improve the public school facilities was clear,
as the conversation was already focused on potential building contractors, including the
Departmental Building Construction and Maintenance Branch (BC&M).
One day later, another letter from Thomson arrived that dealt with the technical aspects of
using binishells for the first time in Australia in more detail. He mentioned, for instance, that
Bini would have needed at least two Italian technicians for the first construction (later Bini
actually asked for three workmen). The budget and equipment were also described in more
detail. The inflation tools would have been imported from Italy, for an amount of $300,000, to
be paid as a one-off payment. The cost of a single dome was therefore $100,000, including
finishes, plus $25,000 related to Bini’s fees, his workmen’s air tickets, expenses and wages.
This letter reported discussions with the contractors and provided information about several
companies. First, Sabemo was interested, but required 75 per cent of the shares, leaving 25
per cent to Bini Brothers. Second, Civil & Civil was interested, but only if Bini Brothers could
have guaranteed the erection of at least 50 binishells per year. Finally, Concrete Construction
was definitely interested, but wanted to clarify several aspects with the department before
signing the agreements. Thomson went on to mention that Dante Bini was also interested in
SAHANZ 2015 Conference Proceedings | 493
practicing as an architect in Australia, and this would have required him to face the issue of
being trained and registered. He also proposed an easy way of eluding the 12-month period
of training by providing a contract to Bini, which allowed him to work as an architect for the
department.
Bini’s immigration to Australia was about to become reality. On Saturday 15 September
1973 he met Eric Adams at London Airport to discuss the matter, as well as his recent visit
to New South Wales and Victoria. In a letter that Adams wrote to Thomson later on the same
day, Bini’s satisfaction regarding his first stay in Australia clearly emerged. However, such
enthusiasm did not stop him from looking for other opportunities to export the binishell
system abroad. In a letter dated 19 September 1973, Bini frankly confessed to Thomson
about a recent meeting he had had with the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) based in
Detroit. It regarded the possibility of being a consultant for the US Department of Defence
and of building a Visitor Information Centre in their headquarters in Germantown, Maryland.
It is now difficult to say whether that communication was just an honest admission or a
reaction to the anxiety generated from having to wait for a final offer from the NSW
department. However, the decision to construct a first 32m diameter binishell (later reduced
to 18m) reached Bini not long after, on 15 October 1973, by means of a telex signed by
Thomson. A further five structures would also have been built, after verifying the success
of the first one. Considering that the equipment used for inflation was quoted at about
$300,000, its consistent reuse would have reduced the overall cost per dome. According to
the department estimations, building six binishells would have cost $105,950 each.
During the following week Thomson searched for references about the application of
binishells outside Italy, and the final disclaimers regarding Bini’s arrival were finally sent on
26 October 1973. J. C. Humphrey, Director of Public Works in NSW, signed the letter that
defined the agreement. In a long telex, he stated that the internal Building Construction and
Maintenance (BC&M) Branch would have built the first structure, with the help of three Italian
technicians. The franchise for using the binishell system would have been non-exclusive
and a consultant structural engineer would have been employed. They also expected Bini
to arrive in Australia in late November, start ordering the necessary equipment in December
and begin the construction in March 1974. The first six domes should have been completed
by June 1974.
Fig. 1 The three binishells at Narrabeen North Public
School. Photograph by Alberto Pugnale, May 2014.
Alberto Pugnale and Alberto Bologna | Dante Bini’s “New Architectural Formulae”: Construction, Collapse
and Demolition of Binishells in Australia 1974-2015
494 | SAHANZ 2015 Conference Proceedings
The story that follows is described in a very discursive and readable manner by Bini himself
in Building with Air28, where the text is also complemented with several pictures by the
famous Australian photographer Max Dupain.29 A more inaccessible source is provided
by Ross Styles, who wrote his thesis under Bini’s supervision at UNSW in 1975.30 Two
promoting brochures that described the binishell system and the early constructions in
NSW were also published in 1977-78 by the local Department of Public Works, right after a
major governmental change in which Jack Ferguson became the new Deputy Premier and
Minister for the aforementioned Department.31
The fortune of binishells in Australia did not last long. On 4 January 1975, just after a few
constructions, the first 36m diameter structure collapsed at Fairvale High School. The
department immediately organised the installation of precautionary support towers in
the other 36m domes, as they were also considered at a high risk of failing. The obvious
consequence of this measure was a major loss in functionality due to the presence of extra
columns in the internal spaces. As the binishells were all intended for use as school facilities,
major concerns about their safety were also raised by groups of parents, who did not want
to expose their children to danger. The situation calmed down when the reasons for the
collapse became official: an exceptional temperature gradient of 25 degrees occurred
during the night of 2 January 1975, when the RC shell was still uninsulated and unfinished;
this event triggered the failure, but the structure itself was considered safe.
A second collapse at Pittwater School, dated 4 August 1986, definitely marked the destiny
of binishells in Australia. Permanent steel structures were installed to support the remaining
36m diameter domes, but most of the schools were already planning their demolition and
substitution with more conventional buildings. Structural stability was not the only reason
for such a choice – leakage, vandalism and maintenance costs were also major issues in
most of the cases.
In 1979, Dante Bini decided to leave Australia for a new professional challenge in the United
States. At present, he is living in the Napa Valley, San Francisco, while his business activity
is currently managed by his son Nicolò in Los Angeles.32
At present, the list provided at the end of this paper, which includes location, typology,
construction company, client, dome diameter, major alterations and current status of each
structure, is the most complete survey of the Australian binishells.33 In short, 20 binishells
Fig. 2 The three binishells at Narrabeen North Public
School. Photograph by Alberto Pugnale, May 2014.
SAHANZ 2015 Conference Proceedings | 495
were built between May 1974 and June 1980 (21 if we consider that the one at Fairvale
School was rebuilt). The Narrabeen North Public School is here considered as one single
structure, even though it has an intersection between two domes plus a separate one. The
Space City Shopping Centre is also counted as one construction, but it was actually an
incredible composition of seven binishells, three of which had 18m diameters and four 36m
diameter domes.
Two binishells collapsed in Australia, one was partially demolished in April 1988 and nine
others were demolished entirely between November 1988 and May 2014. The dome at
Georges River College Peakhurst Campus was the most recent lost, but also the last survival
of the four multi-purpose centres realised in NSW by means of the 36m system, scheme no.
1. The latter was the most fascinating, in architectural terms, as the shell was complemented
with four kinds of pyramidal frustums to compose a perfectly square plan. Figures 4 and 5
show the Peakhurst binishell just a few days before Australia lost one of the most relevant
binishells in the world. In all the cases, except for the Hurstville binishell, major leakage
problems have been highlighted by the users since the 1980s, and this has required regular
repairs and maintenance works.
Former teachers and employees remember the binishell construction years with nostalgia,
as a period of incredible innovation and vision towards the future, whereas some of the
current students, and even some of the principals cannot recall the etymology of the term
“binishell”.
Fig. 3 The binishell at Killarney Heights Primary
School is presently used as gymnasium but it suffers
from major waterproofing issues. Photograph by
Alberto Pugnale, May 2014.
Fig. 4 The binishell at Georges River College,
Peakhurst Campus, a few days prior to demolition.
Photograph by Alberto Pugnale, May 2014.
Alberto Pugnale and Alberto Bologna | Dante Bini’s “New Architectural Formulae”: Construction, Collapse
and Demolition of Binishells in Australia 1974-2015
496 | SAHANZ 2015 Conference Proceedings
The Australian experience of Dante Bini becomes even more significant when one compares
it is compared with his later achievements. Bini left Australia in 1981 for a new life in the
United States, where he founded new construction and consultancy companies. However,
his subsequent inventions, based on an inflatable membrane technology, such as the
“Pack-Home” system, did not succeed in generating any “new architectural formulae” that
would have freed him from the iconic role of being the creative genius of inflated domes.
Fig. 5 The binishell at Georges River College,
Peakhurst Campus, a few days prior to demolition.
Photograph by Alberto Pugnale, May 2014.
List of Australian binishells, February 2015.
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Alberto Pugnale and Alberto Bologna | Dante Bini’s “New Architectural Formulae”: Construction, Collapse
and Demolition of Binishells in Australia 1974-2015
498 | SAHANZ 2015 Conference Proceedings
1 This paper is the result of the combined work of the two authors. Part 1 was written by Alberto Bologna
(Laboratoire de Théorie et d’Histoire 3, Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne) and part 2 by
Alberto Pugnale (Faculty of Architecture, Building and Planning, University of Melbourne). Both parts
have been revised by the authors and the paper structure has been conceived together. This research
project has been funded by an Early Career Research Project Grant of the Faculty of Architecture,
Building and Planning, University of Melbourne, of which Alberto Pugnale is the Chief Investigator.
2 Alberto Pugnale and Alberto Bologna, “Dante Bini’s Air Structures (1964-1979): From Early Italian
Prototypes to Australian Experience,” in Proceedings of the First Construction History Society
Conference, 11-12 April 2014, ed. James W. P. Campbell et al. (Cambridge: Construction History Society
– Short Run Press, 2014), 355-365.
3 See Ada Louise Huxtable, Pier Luigi Nervi (New York: George Braziller, 1960), 12, 16. The concept of
‘structural art’ spread during the 1980s because of David Billington. See David P. Billington, The Tower
and the Bridge: The New Ar t of Structural Engineering (New York: Basic Books, 1983), 3-8.
4 “Fuller, Nervi Candela to Deliver 1961-62 Norton Lecture Series. Three Architects Chosen,” The Harvard
Crimson, November 15, 1960.
5 Twentieth Century Engineering (New York: Museum of Modern Art, 1964).
6 “Balloon Houses Designed for Defense Workers Bloom Under Virginia Trees,” Life, December 1, 1941,
34-35; “Ballyhooed Balloon,” Architectural Forum 75 (December 1941): 421; “Airform House is improved
for U.S. market, also going overseas,” Architectural Forum 87 (July 1947): 15; W. Neff, Jr. ed., No Nails,
No Lumber: The Bubble Houses of Wallace Neff (Santa Barbara: Capra Press, 1986), 177-186; J. F.
Muntz, “Bubbles for Defence,” in Wallace Nef f 1895-1982: The Romance of Regional Architecture (San
Marino, California: The Huntington Library, 1989), 69-89.
7 Proceedings: World Conference on Shell Structures (Washington, DC: National Academy of Sciences –
National Research Council, 1964).
8 Proceedings: World Conference on Shell Structures, 688.
9 Dante Bini, Building with Air (London: Bibliotheque McLean, 2014), 37-41.
10 Pugnale and Bologna, “Dante Bini’s Air Structures (1964-1979),” 355- 365.
11 James H. Marsh, “Construction of Thin Shell Structures by the «lift-shape» Process,” in Proceedings:
World Conference on Shell Structures, 447-452.
12 Proceedings: World Conference on Shell Structures, 4 47.
13 Claudio Greco, “The Ferro-Cemento Experimental Storehouse by Pier Luigi Nervi,” in DOCOMOMO
Conference Proceedings, Third International Conference, 16-19 September, 1994 (Barcelona:
Docomomo International, Iberian Docomomo, Fundacio Mies Van Der Rohe), 108-111.
14 Bini, Building with Air, 26.
15 Henri Lossier, patent FR 372.499, Coffrage pour constructions armées, December 12, 1906.
16 Società Nervi & Bartoli (inventor: Aldo Arcangeli), patent IT 455678, Perfezionamento nella costruzione
di solai, volte, cupole, travi-pareti e strutture portanti in genere a due o tre dimensioni, con disposizione
delle nervature resistenti lungo le linee isostatiche dei momenti o degli sforzi normali, July 23, 1949; Pier
Luigi Nervi, patent IT 455750, completive to patent IT 406296, July 23, 1949.
17 Mario Salvadori, Why Buildings Stand Up: The Strength of Architecture (New York and London: W. W.
Norton & Company, 1980), 203.
18 Dante Bini, A cavallo di un soffio d’aria. L’Architet tura Autoformante (Milano: Guerini e Associati, 2009),
26. See also Bini, Building with Air, 26.
19 Proceedings: World Conference on Shell Structures, 137-139.
20 Thomas H. Creighton, “The New Sensualism,” Progressive Architecture (September 1959): 141-147;
Thomas H. Creighton, “The New Sensualism II,” Progressive Architecture (October 1959): 180-187.
21 Lucio Fontana, “Michelangelo Antonioni’s Villa in Sardinia: A Magnificent Leopardian Concrete Moon –
abandoned on the step rocks of Costa Paradiso,” in Bini, Building with Air, 147-159.
22 “The Endless House, Architectural Forum 93 (November 1950): 124-126.
23 “Sculpting with Sprayed Concrete,” Architectural Forum 111 (October 1959): 167-168.
24 Dante Bini, A cavallo di un soffio d’aria. L’Architet tura Autoformante (Milano: Guerini e Associati, 2009),
26. See also Bini, Building with Air, 56.
25 Bini, Building with Air.
26 All the files related to the early conversations between the NSW Department of Public Works and Dante
Bini are archived in NRS 4352 30 02 File no. S5000 1462.
SAHANZ 2015 Conference Proceedings | 499
27 In a letter dated 19 July 1973 and signed by Agent General David Hughes, it emerges that Dante Bini
remained in Australia for about four weeks.
28 Bini, Building with Air, 7 7-111.
29 The same photographs appear in Will McLean, “Domes of Discovery,” Architectural Review vol. 233, no.
1392 (February 2013): 86-93.
30 Ross Styles, “Binishells” (BArch thesis, University of New South Wales, 1975).
31 The first brochure was published in 1977: New South Wales. Dept. of Public Works, Binishells in New
South Wales Schools (Sydney: Dept. of Public Works, 1977). The second one was released in 1978: New
South Wales. Dept. of Public Works, Construction of Binishell Reinforced Concrete Domes (Sydney:
Dept. of Public Works, 1978).
32 Two websites are currently active and show the work of Dante Bini and his son Nicolò: www.
binisystems.com and www.binishells.com.
33 Information about the construction and maintenance of the Binishell at Gippsland Campus, Victoria,
can be found in the Monash University Archives, MON 420, A-4-3-4; MON 420, B-4-3-4; MON420,
D-4-3-4, MON974, 92-1349. Documents, photos and a video of the demolition, which was planned for
November 2008 but took place in January 2009, have been kindly provided by Alan Scarlet, Campus
Manager at Federation University Australia, Gippsland Campus.
... 13,14). After the second collapse in Pittwater, permanent steel structures were added to prevent future failures, but thoughts about possible Binishell replacements also began to arise (Pugnale and Bologna 2015). ...
Article
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.
... Bini built over 500 shells with this construction method. An exemplary list of binishells built in Australia can be found in [28]. In 1975, a modified version of this method was used by the US Army. ...
Article
Full-text available
Concrete as a construction material is characterized by high compressive strength, low tensile strength, and good casting ability. In order to fully utilize the potential of this material, the form of load-carrying structures has to be designed according to the stress distribution in the structure. Partially hollow structures, such as hollow beams, or doubly curved structures, such as shells, have favorable characteristics. In hollow structures, material savings are achieved in the individual building components by locally reducing dimensions. Concrete shells, if designed properly, are able to span over large areas by transferring the loads mainly by membrane stresses. The main problem with these structures, however, is the high effort required for producing the complicated formwork. One possibility of reducing this effort is to use a pneumatic formwork. This paper describes different pneumatic formwork systems invented in the past 100 years and presents the latest developments in this area. The many types of possible applications are divided into three categories in order to obtain a clearer overview. Finally, a new construction method, called “Pneumatic Forming of Hardened Concrete (PFHC),” is presented. This method was invented at the TU Vienna and uses the pneumatic formwork in a novel way.
Conference Paper
Full-text available
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.
Both parts have been revised by the authors and the paper structure has been conceived together. This research project has been funded by an Early Career Research Project Grant of the Faculty of Architecture
  • Alberto Pugnale
Alberto Pugnale (Faculty of Architecture, Building and Planning, University of Melbourne). Both parts have been revised by the authors and the paper structure has been conceived together. This research project has been funded by an Early Career Research Project Grant of the Faculty of Architecture, Building and Planning, University of Melbourne, of which Alberto Pugnale is the Chief Investigator.
12, 16. The concept of 'structural art' spread during the 1980s because of David Billington The Tower and the Bridge: The New Art of Structural Engineering
  • Ada Louise Huxtable
  • Pier Luigi Nervi
Ada Louise Huxtable, Pier Luigi Nervi (New York: George Braziller, 1960), 12, 16. The concept of 'structural art' spread during the 1980s because of David Billington. See David P. Billington, The Tower and the Bridge: The New Art of Structural Engineering (New York: Basic Books, 1983), 3-8.
Nervi Candela to Deliver 1961-62 Norton Lecture Series. Three Architects Chosen
  • Fuller
Fuller, Nervi Candela to Deliver 1961-62 Norton Lecture Series. Three Architects Chosen," The Harvard Crimson, November 15, 1960.
Bubbles for Defence, " in Wallace Neff 1895-1982: The Romance of Regional Architecture
  • Muntz
Muntz, " Bubbles for Defence, " in Wallace Neff 1895-1982: The Romance of Regional Architecture (San Marino, California: The Huntington Library, 1989), 69-89.
Dante Bini's Air Structures (1964-1979)
  • Bologna Pugnale
Pugnale and Bologna, "Dante Bini's Air Structures (1964-1979)," 355-365.
Construction of Thin Shell Structures by the «lift-shape» Process
  • James H Marsh
James H. Marsh, "Construction of Thin Shell Structures by the «lift-shape» Process," in Proceedings: World Conference on Shell Structures, 447-452.
Aldo Arcangeli), patent IT 455678, Perfezionamento nella costruzione di solai, volte, cupole, travi-pareti e strutture portanti in genere a due o tre dimensioni, con disposizione delle nervature resistenti lungo le linee isostatiche dei momenti o degli sforzi normali
  • Nervi
  • Bartoli
Nervi & Bartoli (inventor: Aldo Arcangeli), patent IT 455678, Perfezionamento nella costruzione di solai, volte, cupole, travi-pareti e strutture portanti in genere a due o tre dimensioni, con disposizione delle nervature resistenti lungo le linee isostatiche dei momenti o degli sforzi normali, July 23, 1949; Pier Luigi Nervi, patent IT 455750, completive to patent IT 406296, July 23, 1949.
The New Sensualism The New Sensualism II
  • Thomas H Creighton
Thomas H. Creighton, " The New Sensualism, " Progressive Architecture (September 1959): 141-147; Thomas H. Creighton, " The New Sensualism II, " Progressive Architecture (October 1959): 180-187.