What is Architects of Air’s ‘Luminarium’?
It has been described as something of a cross between a womb and a cathedral. This is the inflatable walk-in sculpture made of plastic sheeting and inflated with compressed air, called the Luminarium. This walk-in sculpture is designed to encapsulate and give visitors a sense of the beauty of natural light. It is the brainchild of Alan Parkinson, founder of Architects of Air. This work has toured over 40 countries and received over 3 million visitors.
What happens inside the sculpture?
The Luminaria (several units of Luminarium) are designed with an inspiration of natural forms and shapes as well as man-made forms like gothic and Islamic architecture. The visitor is immersed in an environment of color as the natural light is filtered through the fabric. The winding paths in the maze and the colors combine to create a sensory experience that many have described as blissful.
Luminosity & the impact on the senses
The Luminarium has surprising luminosity. Natural light is filtered by the translucent colored fabric and transmitted in fantastic hues whose beauty instantly impacts a visitor’s senses. The environment feels utopian and organic with a flash of radiant brilliance.
How do visitors react?
Walking through the maze, with their saturation in color and gentle sensory soundscape, a visitor will experience an out-of-this-world sensation. Many visitors find the Luminarium so comforting and calming that they take a moment to lie down, relax and contemplate. It is not uncommon to find visitors asleep on the floor.
No two visitors will have the same experience
Some of the descriptions of the experience have been like being in a colored space station, walking through stained glass, or feeling like Jonah in a colored whale. No two visitors will have the same experience. Each person appreciates the radiance, color, and calm of the Luminarium differently. The Luminarium will offer this unique experience regardless of the weather or the amount of light outside.
All luminaria are made to the same scale (1000/10,000 sq. meter). But different luminaria are shaped to fit different sites. There have different designs over the years, with different inspirations in design. Currently, the luminaria touring are:
- Albesila – An egg shape design
- Amococo – With the longest tunnel maze
- Arboria – Inspired by the forest
- Katena – Suspended chain design
- Pentalum – Taking the pentagon geometric shape
- Miracoco – Inspired by the Indian Lotus temple
- Mirazozo – With new seam technology to give a neon-like effect
Over 3 million visitors so far
Luminaria has been placed in various sites, including schools, art and music festivals, community spaces, corporate events, architectural and design events. Over 3 million visitors have trooped to these marvels of light for the unique experience.
Miracoco marks an evolution gaining more control over the aesthetic of the structure – firstly in using a computer program to develop the design and secondly in using new materials to more closely engineer the forms. Miracoco closely resembles its sister structure Mirazozo in terms of the visitor’s journey and the disposition of its spaces, but its distinguishing elements are in the rendering of the domes.
The dodecahedral domes follow a geometry made more precise by the use of reinforced belts. Miracoco’s Centre Dome is an imposing structure. Inspired by the Lotus Temple of India, its cupola features a spiral lattice of radiant stars on a bed of subtle hues.
Mirazozo makes extensive use of an ‘illuminated seam’ – a feature where translucent strips replace the normal seams, creating a neon-like lattice of light. The illuminated seams foreground how the structure was formed and make evident the underlying geometry. The pattern of these scintillating seams induces the viewer’s gaze to shift between different perceptions of the same view – an effect one encounters in the contemplative geometric surface design of Islamic art and architecture. Mirazozo’s Centre Dome draws on the pneumatic principles of soap bubble intersection to calculate a voluminous overhead space. This structure, combined with a dazzling array of illuminated seams, has been compared to a firework display.