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“A luminarium meets a need in people, it offers a space somewhere between a womb and a cathedral”


Architects of Air - Oldknows Factory Egerton Street - Nottingham NG3 4GQ - U K Telephone +44 115 941 3709 - Fax +44 115 941 3711 -

The Experience

A luminarium is a monumental installation where people are moved to a sense of wonder at the beauty of light and colour. Architects of Air design, build and tour the luminarium designs of company founder, Alan Parkinson. Since 1992 they have enchanted nearly 2 million visitors in 37 countries across 5 continents.

A luminarium is an inflatable environment, a participative sculpture made of translucent vinyl. Visitors receive a map and remove their shoes before passing through the airlock. Once inside they are encouraged to sit down in the pods or lie back to enjoy the ambience of the structure. Their initial reaction is often one of delight at the unanticipated beauty of the light. The radiance of the daylight transmitted by the coloured vinyl of the luminarium is surprising in it’s luminosity and makes a direct impact on the senses. Through labyrinthine tunnels and cavernous domes, visitors move in a medium of saturated and subtle hues. Vivid reflections of liquid colour spill across the curved walls creating a world apart from the normal and everyday. Visitors are excited to discover how different colours blend or resonate; how they transform faces and clothing. Some explore, following their maps through the maze immersing themselves in radiant colour. No two visits to a structure are alike as the atmosphere inside alters according to changing weather and changing light outside. The experience is also affected by how the public inhabit the luminarium. It is a paradox that such a stimulating environment can simultaneously be so calming. Many people find the luminaria a place for rest or meditation. Visitors try to put their experience into words – likening it to being in a futuristic space station or the human body. One perceptive analogy came from a visitor who described the luminarium as being “somewhere between a womb and a cathedral” Sometimes the structure may be animated by a musician or a storyteller but, more often, the space is enjoyed in its simplicity. As such, it is appreciated by people of all ages from all backgrounds. MEDIA KIT - 2


Design & Building

The luminaria are inspired by pure forms of geometry & nature, Islamic architecture and modern architectural innovators such as Buckminster Fuller and Frei Otto. For inflatable structures to have smooth surfaces their shapes must follow the laws of physics. In the design process these forms are broken down into cones, spheres and cylinders and their infinite combinations. The starting point for a design is its footprint - the layout that will afford maximum mystery and discovery when travelling through the structure. Once a satisfactory ground plan is achieved a complete engineering analysis of the forms and template design is undertaken. Functionality is a major part of the design process; integral anchorage and forms conceived to ensure stability in windy conditions; walkways kept in contact with the ground to permit passage of wheelchairs; modularity to enable the structures to be adapted to different sites. Since the completion of the first luminarium ‘Eggopolis’ in 1990, all luminaria use some common ‘building blocks’ such as the tunnels, pods and corner domes. These have provided a reliable means of functionally and aesthetically linking the domes. The domes are the large chambers that provide focal points. They often take their design point of departure from variations on the dodecahedron as these geometric forms are architecturally very useful for this particular application. Architects of Air aim to build one new luminarium per year in their Nottingham (UK) workshop. The vinyl is custom-made in France and has many characteristics including flexibility in a range of temperatures, strength, resistance to ultraviolet and a high fire retardency. Each luminarium requires a workforce of five people and a time-frame of four months to complete. The plastic is cut using templates and glued together. The actual fabrication process is very simple and does not require sophisticated equipment. A luminarium will last for about 300 exhibition days before it is recycled.


On Tour

A luminarium is booked by an organisation such as a cultural centre or a festival typically for an exhibition period ranging between 3 and 30 days. Since 1992 they have enchanted over a million visitors in 37 countries on 5 continents. The experience starts with the spectacle of installation. Laying out the structure and anchoring can take as little as 2 hours. Using only the power required to operate two domestic electric kettles, in just 20 minutes the luminarium inflates to monumental size – up to 1,200m2 and rising to 10m high. The appearance of this ephemeral cathedral of air is a dramatic intervention in the everyday urban environment. At the end of the final day, once the last visitor has departed the structure is unplugged, unzipped and can be on its way to the next exhibition in 90 minutes. In the course of the exhibition as many as 3,000 visitors per day may have passed through the luminarium to come out smiling and serene – touched by a sense of wonder at the beauty of light and colour. In 2010 Architects of Air are touring 5 structures – Mirazozo, Amococo , Levity III, Levity II, and Amozozo.

Tour Schedule 2010 Confirmed dates in bold - Dates in discussion in grey 20th February -14th March 20th - 26th February 10th - 19th March 13th - 16th of May 26th - 30th May 8th - 14th June 4th - 6th June 12th - 13th June 19th - 20th June 16th - 22th July 17th - 25th July 11th - 15th August

Adelaide Fringe Festival Australian Performing Arts Market Arab Cultural Capital - Doha Artsplosure Festival - Raleigh Ottawa Children's Festival Brisbane Lakeside Centre . Nottingham Cork Dublin Milton Keynes Just for Laughs Festival - Montreal Sziget Festival - Budapest

Australia Australia Qatar USA Canada Australia UK Ireland Ireland UK Quebec Hungary

Check the TOURING page on our website for updated info. MEDIA KIT -4

Architects of Air - Oldknows Factory Egerton Street - Nottingham NG3 4GQ - U K Telephone +44 115 941 3709 - Fax +44 115 941 3711 -


Amococo was built in 2008. Its design is based on the floor plan generated by 86 triaxial domes. From the outside the structure looks organic- the undulations of the domed passageways are aesthetically at one with the domes rising at their junctions. The common visual motif of the Amococo domes is the ‘oculus’ – a high-level ovoid window that allows indirect coloured light to gently diffuse into the outer domes. The cupola of the central dome is made almost entirely of opaque plastic yet the ceiling resonates with scintillating colour filtering in through the oculi. The colours of Amococo are calculated to generate the greatest diversity of subtle hues – using only four colours of plastic. Amococo also experiments with the use of reinforced strips to confine and give higher definition to the form of the domes. Amococo has 71 ‘pods’ – large alcoves, big enough to accommodate whole families, where people sit and relax out of the way of the visitors making their way around the structure. Each pod has its own monochromatic stained-glass window, arched like the windows of the gothic cathedrals that inspired them.


Amozozo was built in 2004 and was one of the first of the AoA structures to use a ‘triaxial dome’ that has since become a standard feature. This 3-sided dome was conceived during a visit to the Middle East and the particular inspiration was the modularity of the elements that make up the Iranian bazaar. The triaxial dome makes possible the ever-turning paths that create the winding maze of Amozozo. Every now and then the paths open out into a luminous, spacious domes awash with saturated colour. The seam patterns of the domes make reference to the surface decoration found on mosque domes. Amozozo also features an experiment in the ‘soap bubble’ principal of pneumatic construction where three 5 metre diameter ‘bubbles’ are joined in line to create a large open space. Here, too, the seam pattern is foregrounded but in reverse fashion to the other domes - by making the seam the actual source of light. MEDIA KIT -5

Levity II & Levity III

Levity II was built in 2005 and it follows the floor plan of its successful predecessor, the original Levity built in 2000. This floor plan has proved to be the most satisfying in terms of the length of the journey inside and the variety of experiences that are to be had en route. Levity III shares an identical floor plan with Levity II but its domes are all rendered differently. It had its première in Angers, France in 2007. The three outer domes are an exploration of an adapted dodecahedron where seam lines act as fluid map contours to define the shape. The Red Tree is a dome with luminous central trunk and branches. It is often the dome where one finds a large number of people sitting around the trunk, centering on radiance, as people would sit around a communal fire. The Centre Chamber had its point of departure in the marine illustrations of 19th Century biologist Ernst Haeckel. Here subtle colour is projected on to the domed ceiling to create a rainbow of gentle hues. Its base is hexagonal colonnade at ground level with illuminated columns at its three corners. This is the space that is most often the focus for performance.


Mirazozo will be completed early in 2010. It will make more use of the illuminated seam feature first explored in Amozozo. Like earlier structures the Islamic graphic influence is here very visible albeit in quite an obtuse way. The pattern of seam lines helps to promote an almost meditative frame of mind where perception can shift between different organisations of the same view. This is the beauty of geometry as it is found in Islamic art. It will feature several ‘dodecadomes’ (domes based on the adaptations of the dodecahedron) and a large central dome – the largest open space structure that Architects of Air will have built. This central dome will be particularly suitable for hosting performances. Mirazozo is also conceived to be very modular and to permit very compact configurations. More photos will appear in this gallery will appear when Mirazozo begins to tour. For now there are some images of the work in progress plus some images of the ‘Enschede Dome’ – a structure, commissioned by the city of Enschede in the Netherlands, which has been the starting point for Mirazozo. MEDIA KIT -6

Company History

The origins of Architects of Air lay in a Nottingham community project that began in 1981. Alan Parkinson was employed to manage a team of offenders who were serving their punishment by working in the community. These offenders had built a small inflatable mattress and were responsible for erecting it and supervising the different community groups who would use it. The original mattress had some design defects that led Alan to learn how to make design and build better structures. In 1985, inspired by a structure built by Roger Hutchinson of Leicester Interplay, he built his first walk-in inflatable environment and began a series of collaborations with local artists – in particular dance and theatre companies – who developed structured activities inside the inflatable environments. One of the main client groups for these collaborations was centres for people with disabilities. In 1990 a three-way collaboration between one such centre and a theatre company led to the building of a large structure to tour the UK performing for audiences with disabilities. This structure was Eggopolis. In 1992 Eggopolis was invited to a festival in Edinburgh where it entertained its first paying general public. The reaction from press & public was huge and ‘Architects of Air’ was created the following year.

Alan Parkinson Artistic director Alan Parkinson lives in France and works both there and in Nottingham, England. He first started experimenting with pneumatic sculptures in the I980s and has since developed his own language of form in this plastic medium. In 1992 he established the company ‘Architects of Air’ to build and tour his luminarium designs Alan describes his intention as an ‘Architect of Air’ in the following terms: “What motivates me to design is the fact that I continue to be struck by the beauty of light and colour found in the luminaria. These structures nurture an awareness of a pure phenomenon that gently cuts through everyday conditioned perceptions and awakens a sense of wonder in people” The pneumatic form has a simple purity that echoes that of the light it contains. It has been Alan’s work to explore what is possible within the laws of pneumatics to develop an architectural aesthetic capable of doing justice to the beauty of the luminous colour within. MEDIA KIT -7

Press Quotes

"Arcazaar …is a kasbah that takes Moorish architecture as its starting point and then, as Gaudí did in Barcelona a century or more ago, turns it into something highly organic and distinctly ambivalent. Not that Gaudí would have recognised it. What Parkinson has done is treat the inflated object as an immersive art experience, in which light, sound and architectural form combine. The luminaria are successful precisely because they have that Le Grand Meaulnes quality of transforming a place, making a magical event, then quietly disappearing.." Hugh Pearman, Sunday Times "From the outside Levity, by Nottingham-based Architects of Air, looks like the most elaborate bouncy castle you've ever seen. It turns out to be something much more. Think of it as visual art you can enter. Inside, the pneumatic caverns of zippered and glued plastic, illuminated solely by natural light, are right out of the mid-60s sci-fi flick Fantastic Voyage. The trompe-l'oeil undulations and juxtaposition of saturated hues --- oven-coil orange, membranous red, hot pink, neon blue, iridescent copper, lollipop green --- make the eyes dance. The effect as you wander through, accompanied by an amorphous ambient soundtrack and the occasional rush of air, is simultaneously disorienting and comforting, stimulating and serene. This is a place for respite, re-charge or both. No wonder it's been described as ‘somewhere between a womb and a cathedral.' Donald Hutera, performing arts journalist for The Times of London Time Out magazine & The List (Scotland) “Levity was breathtaking, calming and stimulating. Rarely do we look at a building solely for the pleasure of looking at something beautiful. Once ensconced in such a soft and all encompassing environment, it was difficult not to give in to the temptation to sit and watch the colours merging and flowing over soft smooth curves.” Jersey Evening Post “This sculptural / architectural hybrid recalled the sixties science-fiction utopia of a immaterial transcendental realm, its luminous walls and perspective defying tunnels offering a near psychedelic world of light and colour. For more contemporary minded users Luminarium IV might have represented the ultimate man-made chill out experience, a synthetic Arcadian retreat.” Irish Sculptors Society


“Each dome radiates a different colour with an intensity that is purely the effect of natural light diffusing through the plastic of the structure. On the two days of my visit to the festival the queues outside Eggopolis stretched and snaked across Inverleith Park. If ever there was a show that was the venue itself then this was it.” John Linklater, The Herald “One of the biggest hits of inaugural Sleepless Night art extravaganza in Miami Beach was the "Levity III" Luminarium, an inflatable series of structures designed by British artist Alan Parkinson and executed by the British-based Architects of Air. From the exterior, the colorful Luminarium resembled one of those massive, bouncy castles from one's childhood, and, judging by the throngs of children waiting in line to enter with their parents that evening, visitors probably half-expected to see children jumping up and down inside. Instead, a sensual world of light and color greeted entrants and mesmerized all viewers (yes, children, too). Everything was awash in glowing light as visitors walked through a series of delightfully disorienting tunnels that led to meditative domes. Parkinson was inspired by Islamic architecture when he designed "Levity III," and his mosque-like spaces became gathering places for visitors, many of whom lay on the floor to experience the full sensation of the setting. Chilled-out music piped through the sound system to complete the mood.” Vanessa Silberman, Art Business News, January 2008 “The most brilliant work was Luminarium III by Architects of Air, created by Englishman Alan Parkinson who has been building enormous sculptures of lightweight, tensile materials since l985. In Collins Park, there were red, green, blue and yellow domes which Parkinson felt inspired to build from cathedral and mosque architecture; as well as the geodesic domes of Buckminister Fuller and the inflatable buildings of Germany's structural engineer, Frei Otto. Barefooted, one by one, you entered the sculpture; a maze of intersecting circular pods lit up by various intensities of red, blue, and yellow light. It is like an underground world of stalactites; icons of flowers, and the ambience of a sacred futuristic cathedral. I could have stayed there for hours; it was so enchanting. Parkinson invents a new Luminarium every year. The last one had Iranian influences as its metaphor.” Melinda Given Guttmann, NYmuseums Curator's Choice


Media Links & Contact A diaporama made by a visitor to an exhibition in Pennabilli, Italy Film of an installation in Angers, France Hundreds of photos taken by visitors and posted on Flickr Documentary of concert given by Andy Sheppard inside a luminarium Interactive 360째 photos of Levity II in Valencia, Spain A film of a recent light/ sound project in Copenhagen MORE LINKS TO VIDEOS PHOTOS AND PRESS COVERAGE ON OUR WEBSITE


Architects of Air Oldknows Factory Egerton Street Nottingham NG3 4GQ UK Tel +44 (0)115 941 3709 - Fax +44 (0)115 941 3711


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