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I'm intrigued by the architectural possibilities of "gossamer systems," a term referring to the design of ultra-lightweight—or perhaps ultra-thin is more accurate—systems for spacecraft design.
According to a recent online course description from the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, "an evolving trend in spacecraft is to exploit very small (micro- and nano-sats) or very large (solar sails, antenna, etc.) configurations. In either case, success will depend greatly on [the use] of ultra-lightweight technology, i.e., 'gossamer systems technology.' Areal densities of less than 1 kg/m2 (perhaps even down to 1 g/m2!) will need to be achieved."
[Image: Via A456].
That exclamation point, present in the original text, is well-justified: structures that weigh one gram per square-meter! While obvious comparisons can be made here with super-light spaceframes and other widely familiar engineering achievements of the past few decades, pushing terrestrial structures toward this seemingly impossible vanishing point—buildings so thin and ethereal, they are, in a sense, no longer even physically present—would be a fascinating challenge for a structures class somewhere.
In fact, let's just make it an actual design challenge, architecture's equivalent of the X Prize: combining origami, aerodynamism, spacecraft physics, materials science, athletic equipment, and more, design and fabricate a building the size of Manhattan that weighs less than one pound. Go!
(Gossamer Systems link spotted by Alice Gorman).