ConversationIceberg design: Narrator: Listen to a conversation between a student and her architecture professor. Student: So, yesterday I picked up one of my roommate's magazines and I was just flipping through it when suddenly this computer illustration of a really cool urban building caught my eye. The unusual form of the building, specifically the way its roof was shaped into several steep, sharp points; it was really unique. Kind of futuristic, you know? When I stopped and actually read the article describing it, I was even more intrigued! The team that's proposing the design calls it an iceberg. Professor: Yes, I've heard about that. The iceberg design is a fascinating concept. Are you considering using that for your model project? Student: Yea, I mean that's what I was thinking. It really seems to be on the cutting edge. Professor: It is. What you're working with, essentially, is a building that really boils down to two components: a steel skeleton and also a flexible high-tech plastic fabric that encases the steel skeleton. Student: Right. I think I remember reading that. Basically it's supposed to function pretty much like a tent, no? Professor: That's right. It uses hardly any building materials and as a result, fewer materials mean that it's more environmentally friendly. Now, do you know why the iceberg was proposed? Student: No. Professor: Well, it was the designer's intent to create buildings that could be very quickly assembled to provide attractive retail space. Student: Hmm ... Interesting. Professor: See, when undeveloped city sites are unused, they become a huge financial burden on the property owner. The owner has to continue to pay taxes on the land, even when it's nothing more than an empty lot, so the vision, they'd put up an iceberg. The property owner would rent out the space and that would help generate income for the owner. Student: That's pretty cool. So, then, I'm thinking the iceberg concept would work for the project. Professor: It seems like it. And you read about air beams in the magazine article, right? Student: Actually, I saw the term used a couple of times, but it didn't give a lot of details. Professor: Well, one reason that this type of building is able to morph into such unusual shapes and lean its walls at such extreme angles is that empty sections of plastic are sewn in and these sections are then inflated with air. These inflated air beams make it possible to have different types of extensions on each building, like the pointed sections of the roof you mentioned. And they're sturdy, solid, and still very light weight. Student: Ahh ... Which I guess is why they're nicknamed "inflatable buildings." Professor: Right, so they're a feature critical to get right, ok? Student: Got it. I'll make sure to get up to speed on that then. Professor: Great. Oh, say, before you head off, are you going to be able to join the group for the field trip to tour the Frank Lloyd Wright house? I have to submit the names to the dean. It's on the 20th, remember? Student: Oh, yes, the 20th. It's on the syllabus, but you said that it was voluntary, right?