Pittwater Life October 2018 Issue

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Times Past

Local link to Dr Bini’s unique

concrete dome architecture

a balloon on

the ground. Cover it

“Place

with wet, reinforced

concrete. Inflate the balloon.

Let the balloon harden. Voila!

– an indestructible concrete

dome built in one day using 20

per cent of the material and

20% of the energy of a normal

home!”

A very simplified

description of a very complex

construction method used to

create a Binishell – but not all

of them were indestructible!

Dr Dante Bini is a worldrenowned,

Italian-born

architect who developed a

unique method of building a

dome to enclose large volumes

of open, unobstructed space.

Although the uses ranged

from housing, sporting

arenas, tourist villages,

gymnasiums and storage

facilities, it was as school

buildings which attracted

the interest of the New South

Wales Government in the

1960s. The Department of

Public Works was looking

for a fast and economic

construction method to

provide a variety of multipurpose

centres for school

activities.

In 1973 Dr Bini was invited

to Australia to discuss the

possibility that his domes

might be the answer they were

after.

The technique involved

The Local Voice Since 1991

ABOVE: The Bini shell at Pittwater

High School sometime after

completion in 1976.

RIGHT: Black-and-white photo

from 8 September 1986 showing

the collapsed 36-metre diameter

Bini dome at Pittwater High

School (scary stuff!).

an ‘inflatable framework’

he called ‘Pneumoform’.

Initially a nylon membrane

was set up and securely

fastened to a concrete slab; a

remarkable network of steel

springs and reinforcing bars

(‘rebars’) was located over the

‘balloon’. Wet concrete was

applied over the system and

the complete mass was then

inflated by pumping air into

the balloon, raising it to the

required form.

The entire procedure took

three to four hours and

after 36 hours the balloon

was deflated and doors and

windows cut into the dome.

ABOVE: Part of the complex at Narrabeen North Public School.

Narrabeen North Public

School Library was the first

of the Bini domes to be

constructed in NSW and it was

as a three-dome complex, each

dome having a diameter of 18

metres.

The Bini dome constructed

at Pittwater High School in

1976 was a much larger 36

metres in diameter. The ‘Kalori

Centre’ as it was called, served

a multitude of uses – dramas,

musicals, concerts, sporting

events, gymnastics and PE

lessons were all conducted in

the dome at regular intervals.

It was recalled as the ‘cultural

and sporting focus of the

whole school’ – sometimes it

was occupied by 1170 people

for school assemblies.

However, on Monday 4

August 1986 at 3.35pm – 10

minutes after school had

finished – the Bini dome

inverted and instantaneously

and dramatically collapsed.

Fortunately it was unoccupied

at the time.

Another large dome at

Fairvale High School, Fairfield,

collapsed in January 1975

whilst under construction

but was successfully rebuilt

and still stands, along with 10

others spread across the state.

Since the first shells were

built in the 1960s, there have

been over 1,600 of them

constructed in 23 countries.

Dr Bini has handed his

company Binisystems over to

his son, Nicolo who continues

to focus on ‘structural

efficiency and minimal use of

materials’.

In 2014 Dr Bini published

a book appropriately titled

‘Building With Air’.

TIMES PAST is supplied

by local historian

and President of the

Avalon Beach Historical

Society GEOFF SEARL.

Visit the Society’s

showroom in Bowling

Green Lane, Avalon

Beach.

OCTOBER 2018 73

Times Past

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