Architect and engineer Frei Otto is talking at RIBA on 17 Feb 2005. Otto is known for his work on tensile structures, grid-shells, natural forms and nature-as-designer (eg structural efficiency in soap bubbles etc).
[RIBA:] He served with the German Air Force as a pilot during the war. When taken prisoner he acted as architect for the prisoner of war camp where being in charge of building and repair with an acute shortage of materials led him to consider building with the least possible materials. His first hand experience of the laws of aerodynamics and the principles of stretching membranes over light frameworks were to influence his later practice as an architect. After the war Otto studied at the Technical University in Berlin. During the 1950s Otto’s interest in pre-stressed tensile systems of construction developed - the tents that have made him famous were to follow.
[Guardian:] Further research documents examined the structure and building properties of bamboo and soap bubbles. Otto observed that given a set of fixed points, soap film will spread naturally between them to offer the smallest achievable surface area. Any child blowing bubbles can, more or less, see how this works. In 1974 the German-born civil engineer Horst Berger, working in the US, came up with the maths that allowed this process to be translated into building structure.