–A German architect and structural engineer, Frei Otto developed his characteristic ephemeral style in reaction to the neoclassical brutalism of the Third Reich. He is credited with pioneering the use of lightweight materials and has greatly influenced the palette available to a generation of architects.
Otto began his career with the aim of designing social housing that would enhance people’s lives. His experiments with fabric architecture were inspired by a desire to provide a loose, freeform contrast to the solidity and starkness of Nazi architecture. His main source of inspiration was found in natural forms, such as spiderwebs and shells.
A utopian vision executed with modesty
As a prisoner of war in the 1940s, Otto found himself experimenting with tent structures for shelter. This led to a lifelong mission to develop a lightweight form of architecture that would not only be a beautiful and sympathetic addition to any landscape but also cheap to construct and therefore fulfil his dreams of social activism through architecture.
He would of needed to buy a selection of Tapping Machines to bend the steel structure into place which he could of sourced from options including Cotswold Machinery who provide quality products at reasonable prices.
Perhaps Otto’s most celebrated work was the roof of the 1972 Munich Olympic Stadium. This astonishing structure was unlike anything many people at the time had seen before – a soft, swooping form with an influence that can clearly be seen in modern architecture such as the Eden Project in Cornwall and the works of contemporary practitioners.
The tensile fabric structure of the Olympic Stadium was also inspired by the soaring peaks of the Alps. It was made of polyester supported by a lightweight steel frame and tensioned cables laid out in an irregular column formation.
A lasting legacy
Although Otto’s creations were easy on the eye and the client’s wallet – at least compared with what had gone before – his vision was cutting edge and incredibly ambitious. Despite his overarching ideals, Otto is reputed to have been a quiet, modest and self-effacing man. He is quoted, after being awarded the prestigious Pritzker prize, as saying that his only objective in designing new buildings had been “to help poor people, especially following natural disasters and catastrophes”.
Otto’s structures were relatively cheap to construct and made thrifty use of available resources; therefore, it is little wonder that his influence endures in today’s eco-conscious society.