Top Fuel at the University of Southern California is a one week, intensive design-build workshop focused on performative systems and the construction of full-scale prototypes. This year’s workshop was focused on Pneumatic Systems under the guidance of Achim Menges from the Institute for Computational Design at Stuttgart University and Thomas Auer of Transsolar Klimaengineering.

In total 3 full scale prototypes were constructed. One is shown in the video above. This team created a parametric pneumatic canopy constructed from 320 air-inflated tubes ranging in length from 5′ to 9′ covering the 64 feet long bridge connecting Watt Hall and Harris Hall. The design was calibrated to provide sun shading and direct air flow across the bridge using the Venturi Effect. Pneumatic structures are inherently unforgiving and the project required an enormous effort to refine the connections and inflation systems. Each of the 320 tubes were supplied with air via a manifold that ran the entire length of the bridge on each side of the canopy, and the system was continually pressurized with two shop vacuums. The entire system was simplified down to two unique details (Tube-Manifold & Tube-Cable) which allowed our 9 student team to construct and install the canopy in 72 hours.

After 6 days of hard work the resulting prototypes were discussed with the following jury: Michael Bulander, Kevin Daly, John Enright, Andreas Froech, Greg Lynn, Greg Otto, Kristi Paulson, Marcelo Spina, Peter Testa, Devyn Weiser, Tom Wiscombe, Andrew Witt, John Zapf.