In 1974, the Department of Public Works New South Wales began a comprehensive program of new school buildings using a radical concrete dome technology. An Italian Architect Dr. Dante Bini collaborated with the NSW Public Works Department and the Government Architect’s Office to install his inflatable, concrete clad ‘Binishells’ to provide multi-function facilities in schools across the state.
Binishells are reinforced concrete thin-shell structures that are lifted and shaped by air pressure. Between 1974 until 1978 the Department of Education constructed eight Binishells or shell complexes. The program included 18-metre diameter shells or shell complexes, generally used as libraries, and 36-metre diameter multipurpose centres, often used as gymnasiums.
The Department engaged Dr. Bini as an architectural consultant to design, direct and train staff in all aspects of the dome construction. The Binishell was quick to construct, using minimal labour and materials resources. The Binishells at Narrabeen North Public School were officially opened by Sir Robert Askin (Premier and Treasurer of NSW) in November 1974. The Binishells at Narrabeen were the first 18-metre diameter domes to be constructed in NSW. More recently the system is being re-launched by Dante Bini’s son Nicoló Bini, AIA.
Improvements to the original system include greater architectural flexibility, compliance to international building codes, simplification of the construction process and integration of latest material and passive heating/cooling technologies. Bini’s legacy is considerable with 1,500 Binishells constructed in 23 countries.
Photos: State Library of New South Wales