Montgolfière hot air balloon | 1784

We like to write about speculative projects, utopias and also competitions in this blog. Our friends from La Periferia Doméstica knows that and has sent us the reference to an old competition documentation about the design for a Hot Air Ballon by the Montgolfier brothers. But, why we found this so interesting?

We have witnessed in the past years a revival of utopic projects, some of they made with inflatables or playing arount the concept of Clouds. Here we have Paisajes Emergentes Clouds or the new Cloud proposal for the London Olympics. But also there are so many other projects mainly unknown like Moon Shadow by Smiljan Radic and Gonzalo Puga or the project Blimp by Frantzen et al Architecten. So, even this is not an architecture project, we found really remarkable the way the project was designed and developed in 1784, like a precedent of some current projects.

Stéphane Massa-Bidal has a website called Retrofuturs, where he mixes the past and the present and in his flickr account we found these remarkable documentation about the Hot Air Ballon project by Joseph-Michel Montgolfier and Jacques-Étienne Montgolfier. He tooks from the wiki these words:

The first clearly recorded instance of a balloon carrying passengers used hot air to generate buoyancy and was built by the brothers Joseph-Michel and Jacques-Etienne Montgolfier in Annonay, France. These brothers came from a family of paper manufacturers and had noticed ash rising in paper fires. The Montgolfier brothers gave their first public demonstration of their invention on June 4, 1783. After experimenting with unmanned balloons and flights with animals, the first tethered balloon flight with humans on board took place on October 19, 1783 with the scientist Jean-François Pilâtre de Rozier, the manufacture manager, Jean-Baptiste Réveillon and Giroud de Villette, at the Folie Titon in Paris. […] The first hot air balloons were essentially cloth bags (sometimes lined with paper) with a smoky fire built on a grill attached to the bottom. They were susceptible to catching fire, often upon landing, although this occurred infrequently.

It is not strange to find similarities with architectural competitions. Étienne, as a 15th child, and particularly troublesome to his elder siblings, was sent to Paris to train as an architect and even he hasn’t finished, at least he received the inputs of the academy. This fact besides Étienne’s talent for technical innovation in the family business: papermaking [that was a high-tech industry in the 18th century] led them to innovate in “machines” design. Like in Newton’s history with the apple, it was in a casual moment in 1782, while watching a fire in his fireplace, that Joseph became interested in the “force” that caused the sparks and smoke to rise.

He made a small bag out of silk and lit a fire under the opening at the bottom causing it to rise. The brothers thought the burning created a gas which they called “Montgolfier gas”. They didn’t realize that their balloons rose because the heated air inside was lighter than the surrounding air.

The interest in nature as a source of inspiration has always been a constant in human mind. The same kind of research that scientist and designers are doing now that biomimicry is almost something “fashionable”, were done in the past. We can only poit that human beings have always being learning from nature, it’s not something new:

The complete photo-set can be visited here and more info about the Montgolfiere hot air ballon, here.


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