Anyone want a pop up dome built out of concrete? Well that's what the Binishells, invented by the Italian architect Dr. Dante Bini, attempted to do. Before his invention in 1964, domes had been built by constructing an internal support structure and then building the dome onto this. His revolutionary idea was to use air pressure as a support structure. His domes were constructed by first building a base to which a large, deflated, dome shaped "balloon" was attached. On top of this a special concrete mix with supporting bars was poured. At the right time the "balloon" was inflated lifting the concrete and supporting bars into a dome shape. The air pressure was then maintained until the concrete was fully set.
Over 1,600 Binishells were constructed around the world covering 23 countries. The dome you see here was constructed in 1977 by architect Michael Godwin, and consultant engineer John Faber for the then Malvern Girls’ College as a sports hall. Its base has a diameter of 36m and at its highest point the dome is 11m high. The inflation of the dome took 1 hour and was then kept inflated for 3 days until the concrete was fully set. 8 large windows were then cut into the base leaving the rest of the dome sitting on 8 legs. Finally a lake was then created around most of the outside to help reflect light inside. The whole building was constructed in just 2 weeks! The following year the dome was officially opened by HRH Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, from where it got its name.
Over the years the dome hasn't been without problem. It has suffered from damp which resulted in it getting a copper covering (now turned a lovely shade of green). It also proved to be costly to maintain and not energy efficient and so a decision was taken by the college in 2006 to request demolition and replace it with a newer building. Luckily the request was refused and in 2009 it was granted Grade II listed status by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, describing it as "a building of special architectural or historic interest". It is now the only example of this type of structure left in the country and in May this year will celebrate it's 40th birthday.
The Edinburgh Dome - Engineering Timelines
Unique dome becomes listed building - Worcester News
The Binishell construction process - YouTube
Images of Binishells - Google Images