Bubble Wall | Breathing Wall Panel System
Interactive, Inflatable, Playable Wall

Brief Project Description

This was an artistic piece installed for a digital fabrication show at the University of South Florida School of Architecture and Community Design. While this brief is specific to this panel, my hope is that the ideas presented here, will inspire you to come up with  your own creation. I am hoping to do a new panel system which maintains constant air, thus doesn't deflate and is a closed system which will become a drum wall, or playable wall.

My goal for this project was to take an object which was conceived in the computer (3D) and make it real. Using a computer program called Rhinoceros (Rhino) and a plug-in called Grasshopper,  I designed a simple cluster of Voronoi cells (bubbles). Using a CNC machine, I cut two different patterns out of 1/2” plywood. Between these two panels, I made an air chamber using flexible latex . Air is pumped into this chamber and the latex membrane expands. Since the frame is rigid, the latex expands around the cut outs in the panel, creating a rich 3D surface. I used an Arduino and solid state relay to control a blower which pumps air into the system. Simple blink script turns relay on/off on a timed sequence.


Can be made using “Hi-Tech” Tools    or    Can be done using “Low-Tech” methods

I used a CNC router and advanced computing to design and fabricate. However, you can come up with your own pattern on a piece of paper and layout the deign on the wood itself. Then, using a jigsaw cut the panel forms out manually.

What Does It Do? Applications?

For Play | interactive wall for children's playroom
Instrument | makes cool drum sounds
Lighting | can serve as lighting for a space
Focal Point | lobby, bar, or nightclub design element
Sculpture or Installation | conversation/performance piece

The concept, while simple, has many potential applications. For example, this system can exist as a wall panel(s) or a ceiling panel(s), serving as a focal point in a room, say, at a bar or nightclub. One can think of the object as an art installation, or sculpture. It is interactive, lights-up, and is quite fun to play with. Would be a really cool wall in a kids playroom, hotel lobby, casino, club.

I have been tinkering with the idea of  applying the concept as a means to circulate air through a building, or as a responsive skin for a building facade. One can imagine a system by which air/gas trapped in the bubbles expands when exposed to heat and allows the building to change its skin throughout the hours of the day in response to ambient temperature. These are just some of the applications I have considered. This panel is essentially a sculptural piece, made to experiment with some ideas and materials. However, there are many applications for the panel.


Two sheets of 4' x 8' birch plywood (Home Depot, Ace) three sheets if making the system double sided as shown here
4' x 16' Roll of latex sheeting cut into two sheets measuring 4' x 8' (http://www.rubbersheetroll.com/) or one sheet if making one sided
Silicone (or latex caulk)
Wood Screws
1/2” plastic tubing (Ace, Home Depot)
Air pump/blower (for best results, this should be high volume but low pressure)
Double sided tape (I used a brand called Killer Red. Pricey, but the best)
Solid State Relay (optional if using Arduino. Type will depend on your power and blower) Can be found at http://www.grainger.com/Grainger/solid-state-relays/relays/electrical/ecatalog/N-8eq
LED Light Strips - (Search Amazon.com) I used this...

LEDwholesalers 16.4ft RGB Color Changing Kit with LED Flexible Strip, Controller with 44-button Remote and Power Supply, 2034RGB+3315+3215

Arduino (optional)

Total Cost was about $300. However, I could have done this much cheaper.


Screw Gun
CNC Router (optional) can use jigsaw

Alternative Materials

In place of expensive latex, you could use something as basic as visqueen, which is just plastic sheeting used in construction, which you can get at Home Depot. You won't get the same results, but it should inflate. I have also been told this could be done with poured latex. The membrane just needs to be air tight. Unless you use a latex/rubber materials, you won't be able to “play” the wall however. OSB or cheaper plywood could be used in place of more expensive birch plywood.

Arduino Notes

You don't need an Arduino. I used one to turn the air on/off. Air fills up the chamber (takes about 2 minutes) and stays off for 10 minutes, which is the time required for the panel to deflate 100%.  A simple blink script trips the relay. I set my timing to match the properties of the panel, so yours may be different depending on leakage and size.

I don't want to get into too much detail about the Arduino scripting, as there are a ton of tutorials on the subject. That said, if you want to use an Arduino to control a relay (and thus the systems supply of air) I used a simple blink script. I adjusted the timing (which is in milliseconds) in the script to control the period. A value of 1000 = 1 second. Through trial and error, I got the timing where I wanted it and altered a base script accordingly.

Solid State Relay Tutorial

Using a solid state relay, I followed a simple tutorial to wire the relay into an extension chord. You can look here to see the tutorial I followed. http://www.glacialwanderer.com/hobbyrobotics/?p=9

Arduino Blink Script Tutorial


Step 1: Design

Step 1 – Design

Since this is not a 3D/computer design site, and you will not likely be using Grasshopper, I'll be very brief on this point. You could easily draw your own pattern in a CAD program, like AutoCAD or trace a pattern by hand on your plywood. Image 1 shows my design for one of the sides.

Basically, I set the dimensions of my panel (4' x 8') and contained the cells inside this panel, making sure not to put holes too close to the edges. The system is doubled sided, with each side having a different pattern. This was done for experimental reasons. The side with the smaller cells did not perform very well. This is mostly due to the larger cells on the opposite side which the membrane favored as it inflated. Now I know for the next version.

You will need three panels all-together if you want to make this panel double sided. Or, if you want to make it one sided, you will need two.

Patterned Panel(s) – The surface(s) which you will cut out the holes from will serve as the front part of the system. The latex will expand through these holes.

Air Chamber Frame (For double sided version) – If making this panel double sided, you will need to cut out or otherwise fashion a frame. The frame should be about 2-3 inches wide and match the dimensions of your panel. See Image 2. The end result will have an inner frame with latex on two sides and the patterned panels attached to this frame. Image 3 shows the assembly of the system.
Great Idea and very thorough instruction, but what thickness latex did you use?
Thanks to everyone for the support and thanks to the judges! Special shout out to UP! 3D Printers for providing such awesome prizes! Thanks!!!!!!!!!!!
This work is really lovely Thank you so much for the share! <br /> <br />Aud
http://thatsnotarchitecture.tumblr.com/ <br> <br>My Blog containing various projects

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