SHIFTboston blog» Blog Archive » Lighter than Air! Winner of the 2011 Barge Competition!

Lighter than Air! Winner of the 2011 Barge Competition!

left to right: Richard McGuinness Deputy Director of Waterfront Planning, Boston Redevelopment Authority, competition winners Phu Hoang and Rachely Rotem, Kim Poliquin Director of SHIFTboston, Olympia Kazi Executive Director of the Van Alen Institute, and Kairos Shen Chief Urban Planner Boston Redevelopment Authority.

Congratulations to Rachely Rotem and Phu Hoang of Rachely Rotem Studio and Phu Hoang Office – the winners of the SHIFTboston BARGE 2011 Design Competition! Their design was presented last night at the SHIFTboston FLOAT Forum at ICA/Boston. Rachely and Phu’s proposal was selected out of 102 submissions from 20 states and 12 countries. The team’s concept entitled, Lighter Than Air will be coming to the Fort Point Channel September 2012.

Constructed from florescent pink hunting camouflage netting, stationary bicycles, and balloons, Lighter Than Air will literally FLOAT over the Fort Point Channel! Tethered to the barge by ropes and pipes, the balloon structure will sway and hover above the barge like a cloud. This shape shifting design will have the ability to move with the wind and human interaction.

“To make a familiar object look strange and a strange object look familiar”

– Rachely Rotem

Rotem and Hoang’s installation will provide an active and visually stimulating destination for the otherwise colorless Fort Point Channel. They are planning to use large Mylar balloons filled with helium to ensure that the balloons maintain some buoyancy for the duration of the installation. A series of stationary bicycles, ranging in number from 5 to 30, will be attached to the balloons. As a visitor pedals one of the bikes, the bike will generate energy that will be used to activate a series of pumps. The pumps will then either push vapor or air that will force the balloons to float and drift above the barge. Energy from the bikes will also be stored in batteries below the barge’s surface. This means that if only one visitor is on the barge, the pink cloud will still be able to undulate under the power of a singular person.

“strange beauty with a bit of whimsical fun and wonder”

-FLOAT Forum Panelist

The team chose to cover the balloons with pink camouflage because the material is readily available and the bright color will draw attention to the area. Stationary bicycles are also easy to find and the amount placed on the barge can vary in number while not affecting the mechanics of the design. The flexibility and mobility of Lighter Than Air also allows it to be easily transported to different locations for future displays.

“This proposal has numerous benefits. It is interactive while also having seating on the barge to view the inflating camouflage material. This concept provides an active destination on the Fort Point Channel both interactive and visual from all sides of the Channel. The color of the camouflage and the organic shapes of the inflating fabric create a new form along the channel in contrast to the existing rigid architecture.”

– FLOAT Forum Panelist

Rotem and Hoang are not new to urban design projects. Both have design studios in NYC and both teach architecture at the University of Pennsylvania. Most recently, the duo designed, Exhale, the winning entry to the Art Basal Miami Beach/Creative Time “Oceanfront” competition in December 2010. Exhale was comprised of 7 miles of connecting reflective and phosphorescent ropes. The ropes interacted with the beach environment, visitors, and changed in glow depending on the speed of the wind.

Get your biking legs ready – we can’t wait to see Lighter Than Air installed at Fort Point! Hope to see you cycling on the barge in September!

Please visit and to see more of their designs.




Liz Tereshko


Categories: Competitions/Events
You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.

4 Responses to “Lighter than Air! Winner of the 2011 Barge Competition!”

  1. Nairi Havan Says:

    We are all still waiting for this funky floating pink wonder to go up. What happened? Too complicated? It seemed very futuristic.

  2. Elizabeth Says:

    it will be built and viewable in Fort Point Channel September 2012.

  3. SHIFTboston blog» Blog Archive » Upcoming Event – Lighter Than Air presented by Phu Hoang and Rachely Rotem at The Architectural League Says:

    [...] in the New York City area next week be sure to stop by the The Architectural League to listen to SHIFTboston 2011 Barge Design Competition winners Phu Hoang and Rachely Rotem speak about their winning design and other [...]

  4. SHIFTboston blog» Blog Archive » Lighter than Air Featured on the Discovery Channel! Says:

    [...] to Rachely Rotem and Phu Hoang, designers of the winning entry to the 2011  SHIFTboston Barge Competition. Their design has been featured on the November 9th Daily Planet show on the Discovery Channel. [...]


Leave a Reply