Frei Otto: Spanning The Future

This documentary profiles internationally-renowned architect and engineer, Frei Otto. Half a century ago, Otto became world famous as a pioneer in the design of tensile structures made from metal armatures and lightweight membranes. Otto’s work included the Mannheim Multihalle, the Munich Zoo Aviary, the 1967 Montreal World Expo German Pavilion and co-design of the 1972 Munich Olympics Stadium.

Despite his fame among top professionals in architecture and engineering, Frei Otto was little known to the public at large. FREI OTTO: SPANNING THE FUTURE intends to right this wrong. This 6 minute trailer will introduce you to Frei Otto’s remarkable life and his revolutionary body of work.

For Otto, the mission of architecture was to be harmonious with nature. He believed every detail needs to be in agreement with the laws of the universe. This attempt to reconcile development with the natural world made Frei Otto a prophet to the modern field of sustainability. Frei Otto saw as a given, that the earth has limited resources and humanity has almost unlimited needs. To efficiently solve the problem of shelter in a climate of constant shortages, Otto combined scientific experimentation with his fertile artistic imagination.

Frei Otto’s true contribution to architecture and structural engineering has only been appreciated with the perspective of time. Contemporary architects including Norman Foster and Zaha Hadid cite Frei Otto as having been a major influence on their work. They talk about Otto’s pioneering research on lightweight architecture; his early interest in the natural environment; his sense of social responsibility; and his foresight of the needs of the future. These elements – combined with Frei Otto’s compelling presence – made him one of the most important architects of the 20th Century—and one of those whose ideas are still resonating in our own time.

This trailer was produced by Simon K. Chiu, in collaboration with writer Michael Paglia, editor Heather Dalton, and director Joshua V. Hassel.