Gossamer Systems

[Image: Via A456].

I’m intrigued by the architectural possibilities of “gossamer systems,” a term referring to the design of ultra-lightweight—or perhaps ultra-thin is more accurate—systems for spacecraft design.

According to a recent online course description from the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, “an evolving trend in spacecraft is to exploit very small (micro- and nano-sats) or very large (solar sails, antenna, etc.) configurations. In either case, success will depend greatly on [the use] of ultra-lightweight technology, i.e., ‘gossamer systems technology.’ Areal densities of less than 1 kg/m2 (perhaps even down to 1 g/m2!) will need to be achieved.”

[Image: Via A456].

That exclamation point, present in the original text, is well-justified: structures that weigh one gram per square-meter! While obvious comparisons can be made here with super-light spaceframes and other widely familiar engineering achievements of the past few decades, pushing terrestrial structures toward this seemingly impossible vanishing point—buildings so thin and ethereal, they are, in a sense, no longer even physically present—would be a fascinating challenge for a structures class somewhere.

In fact, let’s just make it an actual design challenge, architecture’s equivalent of the X Prize: combining origami, aerodynamism, spacecraft physics, materials science, athletic equipment, and more, design and fabricate a building the size of Manhattan that weighs less than one pound. Go!

(Gossamer Systems link spotted by Alice Gorman).

2 thoughts on “Gossamer Systems”

  1. I'm always fascinated to see grainy black-and-white pictures of the most crisp, high tech structures. I can't decide which is out of place, the suited and hatted gentlemen or this lightweight hut.

  2. Interesting thought. But as anyone who has mucked about with extruded plastic insulation will tell you, light and large is a bad combo. Especially on a windy day.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.