How much does your building weigh, Mr. Fuller? This is a question that has been going around for some time now, and it refers to the potential contribution of cutting-edge engineering to develop structures that use the minimum amount of mass for a given purpose. In principle, one could look at the history of buildings as the continuous reduction of the amount of matter needed for the span of a bridge, the area covered by a roof, or a space enclosed by a skin. In principle, less matter means less cost and more speed, but mainly less energy used in the fabrication of a given structure. In that sense, the work of Werner Sobek has been pushing history further along that direction. Perhaps the most radical of his proposals is working with vacuums to make surfaces stiff and using compressed air to add resistance to inflatable structural elements.
In his projects, he has gotten to the point of changing the scale to measure the proportion between weight and resistance of the element from tons to kilograms and even grams. But his search is not only in the direction of a one-sided structural efficiency. His projects are of outstanding elegance, beauty, and refinement.
He is not only capable of framing the structural problem in an original way, but also of making an apposite choice among all the possible building systems. A neat, white cubic cover working with negative pressure to cover archeological ruins or air beams supporting a light, plastic vault are only two instances of the exemplary balance between engineering and architecture Sobek has been able to achieve.