SKYBOUND DREAMLAND: High Altitude Infrastructure for South African Tech-Nomads

“It seems to me I am trying to tell you a dream - making a vain attempt, because no relation of a dream can convey the dream-sensation…that notion of being captured by the incredible which is of the very essence of dreams…” - J. Conrad, Heart of Darkness

“The nomad inhabits these places, he remains in them, and he himself makes them grow, for it has been established that the nomad makes the desert no less than he is made by it. He is a vector of deterritorialisation.” - A. Ponte, Journey to the North

The proposal reevaluates the relationship of informal settlements with their supportive infrastructure, incorporating the creative spirit of South African communities and festivals to create a new image of survivalism. A system of lightweight structures is deployed throughout strategic points in Cape Town to plant the seed for a networked community, independent of traditional limitations and overcoming the artifacts of Apartheid urban planning. The system echoes the temporality of these informal communities, acknowledging the collection of resources as not only a necessity but also as an opportunity for social activity. The structural and material understanding of pneumatics is applied at all scales, from wearable storage devices to flying ships, establishing an inventive new material system. Thanks to technology, humankind is more nomadic than ever, and we can construct a built environment in tune with our increasingly globalized lifestyles. Rejecting the static and monumental, this new world reimagines not only the way we live but also the spaces and materials with which we do so. It is my belief that survival and recreation are not independent of one another, and that the need for basic resources can be translated into a new image of survivalism - one of flexibility, sustainability, and immense optimism for the future.

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A system of skybound infrastructure is deployed across Cape Town to address basic needs for survival. A prototypical airship transports water and people between nomadic communities. The strategic use of materials allows for structural spines and transfer channels to be embedded within an integrated pneumatic envelope. This system lends itself to the functionality of the structure as well as the experiential and tactile qualities of its inhabitation.


This infrastructural system fosters environments for the social activity that is so prevalent in Cape Town culture. The docking of the ships at these sites and subsequent distribution of resources through the community becomes a social event, like a super-scaled South African braai. This system is where the infrastructural meets the informal.


Through material use, the airship fosters interaction between the inhabitants and resources. In traditional storage devices like water towers, the water itself is visually and physically inaccessible. Here, the transportation of water becomes a phenomenological experience - being immersed in water and having awareness of the ebb and flow as supply levels dwindle or increase.


An invisible network of data and telecommunication blankets the city and connects the disparate elements of the system.


An airship dock and resource depository serves as an infrastructural and social element of the community. A large carbon gravity filter forms the centrepiece of the station, so water is deposited directly from the airships and filters down to where the inhabitants can come refill their supply. The station becomes an oasis, and the docking of the ship is a community event.


The dwelling unit addresses the need for housing within these informal communities and sites like District Six. The pods are allocated for different functions like bathing and sleeping. Liquid and gas transfer are embedded within the envelope, based on tests of channels cast into silicone. Biodegradable legs for these temporary structures are constructed using helium and bioplastics.


The collar functions as a piece of customisable human-scale infrastructure - both a survival kit storing liquids and gels and also an interface between the body and environment. Harvesting data from sensors, it visualises this relationship through interactive programming. Working in concert with the rest of the system, the collar contributes to a large scale survey of population and environment. These devices become emblematic of identity for inhabitants of the community.


First hand images illustrate the phenomenological experience of being immersed in water beneath a topography of helium chambers, watching from the airship as it approaches and scans a docking station, and waiting from underneath within the oasis of the resource depository for the ship to land.


These material properties were tested at a small scale through models, manipulating the thickness of the silicone membrane to influence the inflated form, and then further subdividing the model into separate channels for different materials - air, liquid, and hardening foam. At the larger scale these methods are used to embed building functions into a thick pneumatic membrane.


A site model explores the deployment of the system in District Six, near downtown Cape Town and Table Mountain. During Apartheid the diverse residents of District Six were evicted and their houses razed. Now District Six stands empty, a symbol of the highly politicised battle over land ownership in South Africa. The deployment of these temporary structures temporarily alleviates the need for housing and desire for community, while hopefully contributing to a discourse on reclamation of property and human rights in South Africa.