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Airborne Architecture Lesson from the Balinese Ram-Air Kite Tradition

 Bali is an epicenter of the great SE Asian kite culture. They make two general classes of kite: Refined formal types and wildly inventive ram-air 3D theme kites. Long before modern ram-air parafoils and soft theme kites emerged from masters like Jalbert and Lynn, the Balinese where creating all sorts of fantasy figures in the sky: animals, superheroes, improbable looking vehicles, and so on. Just-name-it and they can make it fly.

The typical Balinese fantasy kite begins as a thin fairly flexible open armature of lashed split bamboo or wicker. It is then covered with a papier mache well attached to the framework. By long experience, the Balinese learned a key secret, to leave a wind opening at an aerodynamic stagnation point (like a mouth or chest area), so that the whole figure pressurizes. Overpressure adds stiffness overall, keeping the stabilized paper from promptly fluttering itself to pieces. The internal pressure field even ducts itself into windward inflated detail. Here is the direct technical precedent for modern theme kites. For their part, parafoils began with a fully open stagnation zone, and have evolved toward small valved intakes, Balinese-style.

For our pioneering Airborne Architecture experiments, the Balinese design language is ideal for creating an ultralight crew crew cabin as flying 3D architectural structure with a sense of substance and shelter, without undue flapping. An optimal cabin will have an albacore form with a small wind window in the nose for ram-pressure. This new ram-air hybrid of modern mountain tent and Balinese flying object will have safety netting as its underlaid "foundation", and kite-lift "pavilion" arched overhead, as a big step toward a well-realized airborne architectural format.

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