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"I can remember when the first pulsars were discovered. I was able to go and sit down and listen to graduate students talking about what their theories, to explain what pulsars really were."
- Vernor Vinge

Fanmetal  
  High tensile strength material; used in collapsible structures opened by "fanning" them out.  

The Imperium is a quasi-monarchy that rules hundreds of planets.. As you might guess, the architecture for the imperial household tends toward the grandiose.

Just as new technologies and building theories allowed people in Europe to build larger cathedrals, the technologies in the world of Dune supports the elaborate structures they need.

Will you look at that thing!" Stilgar whispered.

The tall eastern face of the ship glistened in the flat light of the sun, but the shadow side still showed yellow portholes from glowglobes of the night...

It wasn't the lighter that excited Stilgar's awe, Paul knew, but the construction for which the lighter was only the centerpost. A single metal hutment, many stories tall, reached out in a thousand-meter circle from the base of the lighter -- a tent composed of interlocking metal leaves -- the temporary lodging place for five legions of Sardaukar and His Imperial Majesty, the Padishah Emperor Shaddam IV...

And the Baron waited [within], glancing left and right at the metal walls of the selamlik, thinking of the monstrous fanmetal tent around him. Such unlimited wealth it represented that even the Baron was awed. He brings pages, the Baron thought, and useless court lackeys, his women and their companions -- hair-dressers, designers, everything . . . all the fringe parasites of the Court. All here -- fawning, slyly plotting, "roughing it" with the Emperor . . . here to watch him put an end to this affair, to make epigrams over the battles and idolize the wounded.

From Dune, by Frank Herbert.
Published by Putnam in 1965
Additional resources -

All this interior space, and no flying buttresses needed.

A "selamlik" is a term associated with traditional Turkish architecture. It is a place for the men of the household to receive and entertain male friends (while women were restricted to another area of the house - the harem). Read more about the konak (a palatial Ottoman Turkish house).

Herbert notes further that fanmetal is formed by the growing of jasmium crystals in duraluminum. What more do you need, engineers?

If you are interested in very large structures, see nanotech buildings, from Idoru, by William Gibson.

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Additional resources:
  More Ideas and Technology from Dune
  More Ideas and Technology by Frank Herbert
  Tech news articles related to Dune
  Tech news articles related to works by Frank Herbert

Fanmetal-related news articles:
  - Growing Metal In The Shape You Want

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