Creating gothic arches using Airform technology

Aerial view of the inflated Airform for Ryan Brown in Aubrey, TX.

Aerial view of fully inflated Airform for the Brown home in Aubrey, Texas. Inflating gothic-style arches can be a dicey proposition. The total floor area for this home is 4,916 sq. ft. The Airform has a surface area of 9,891 sq. ft. and is made up of 10 special patterns.

Mike South

In April of 2021, an exciting project landed on my desk. Ryan Brown of Aubrey, Texas had been working with his architect and Monolithic on the planning of his new dome home for a few months, and it was finally time to work on the pattern for his Airform. As soon as I saw he wanted gothic-style extended augments, I knew the pattern would be tricky.

For one thing, It had been a while since we’d built any Monolithic Domes with gothic arches. This dome home features six extended gothic-style augments, and two of those augments are very large. In addition, planning and constructing augments like these are highly technical because they require cutting a large hole in the dome, and then connecting to an almost perfectly vertical section of the gothic augment.

Fully inflated Airform showing Gothic arch augments with areas of sacrificial fabric.

Large areas of the Airform at the tips of the augments will be trimmed off after the structure is solid. This is how the shape of the augments is maintained. The space created provides the crew with room to install the frames as designed.

Mike South

Our company has been working to perfect the methods to inflate and install the end frames for these augments so that wrinkles in the skin are rare. You will notice on this airform that we have large areas of the dome that are sacrificial, this is important so that the shape of the augments is maintained and that the crew has space to install the frames as designed.

Inflated Airform of four interconnected domes with 4,916 sq. ft. of living space.

Ryan Brown’s home is comprised of four interconnected domes. Although you can’t see the grand gothic arches yet, this home will be spectacular when finished. This Airform was highly technical and it inflated beautifully.

Mike South

Crews install augment frames inside the inflated Airform to create gothic arches.

The crew works inside the smaller two large augments of this Aubrey, Texas home. They are installing the framework to terminate the dome. During the fabrication of the Airform, the locations of the frames are digitally marked onto the Airform itself, ensuring everything is placed in the correct location.

Mike South

The top of the Gothic arch frame is placed inside the augment of the inflated Airform.

The wood frame is constructed inside the inflated augment to create the crisp, pointed top of the gothic-style arch.

Mike South

The interior of the inflated multi-dome Airform for Ryan Brown's home.

Being inside of the inflated Airform is really an exciting method of building. You go from a concrete slab foundation one day, to a visual and structural form for the completed house the next.

Mike South

The double curved arches of the interior of a multi-dome inflated Airform in Aubrey, Texas.

Multi-dome Monolithic Dome houses create beautiful and dramatic double curve arches inside the house.

Mike South

The entrance to the Gothic arch augment is still mostly closed off at this beginning stage of construction.

The augment starts out inflated by way of a small hole cut into sacrificial fabric that helps hold the shape of the dome under pressure and before the frames are constructed inside. The crew will actually build a lot of the dome before removing that piece of fabric in order to maintain the shape of the dome and the attached augment.

Mike South

The sacrificial fabric helps hold the shape at the transition from dome to augment and will be removed slowly.

The cutout of the sacrificial fabric at the entrance to the arch slowly gets bigger. They cut that part of the dome out slowly, since cutting those holes will have an effect on the dome’s shape around the transition from dome to augment. Our crews are very good at balancing these elements.

Mike South

A closeup of the saddle between the spherical main dome and an attached, smaller, elliptical dome.

The saddle between the main dome (50’ x 25’) and the smaller, single-end dome (40’ x 16'8"). This saddle is interesting because it connects a spherical dome to an elliptical dome. Saddles like this are highly technical because of the varying radii of elliptical structures. We nailed it.

Mike South

Two starbursts and a saddle in the Airform pattern for this dome home comprised of four interconnected domes.

Patterning the transition between a spherical dome and an elliptical dome is partly technical, partly magic. The four interconnected domes are all different shapes and sizes: 1)30’ x 15’ 2)40’ x 20’ 3)50’ x 25’ 4)40’ x 16'8".

Mike South

The completed shell for Ryan Brown's home in Aubrey, Texas. The complicated Airform required 10 special patterns.

The dome shell is complete! Now the crew can finish the exterior. You can see the majority of the extra fabric has been removed.

Mike South