Luminarium: The Architects of Air


Metamodern Art: Luminarium

“Architects of Air build ‘luminaria’ – monumental inflatable structures designed to generate a sense of wonder at the beauty of light and color.”

By EJ Wickes
Image (above) from, Architects of Air’s Luminarium, exterior.

So, I’m walking around Downtown Des Moines and I come across a luminarium; this giant village constructed of translucent PVC and air. Of course the child in me couldn’t resist going in. It was like being inside of a giant cartoon world. A soft labyrinth of space and color. The entire structure was illuminated with passive sunlight through the colored PVC walls. Slender vertical windows light your way through a myriad of tubular tunnels; some leading into to cathedral or mosque like rotundas with vaulted ceilings.

Metamodern Art: Luminarium
A ceiling in the Arboria Luminarium.

Metamodernism and Architecture: Luminarium
Interior view.

The designs are a fusion of Islamic architecture, Archimidean structures and Gothic cathedrals. Taking up an average of 1000 square meters of space these liminaria add a surreal dimension to the environments they’re placed in. Architects more so than other artists and designers are always looking for new and imaginative ways to incorporate the human spirit into their spacial planning. Playing off our intuitive atractions to light, color and sensual surfaces, new and more organic designs in space planning are emerging.

Metamodernism and Architecture: Luminarium
Roger Dean, famous for his cover art for the band YES, has been designing organic and ergonomically pleasing environments since the seventies.

“Founder, designer and artistic director Alan Parkinson first started experimenting with pneumatic sculptures in the I980s and has since developed his own language of form in this plastic medium. Parkinson’s involvement with inflatable structures began on a Nottingham community project in 1981.  He designed and built his first luminarium in 1985, with the aid of Probation Service offenders. In 1990 he created ‘Eggopolis’ which was the first of his luminaria to be shown outside Nottinghamshire. In 1992 the community project closed down and Architects of Air was formed. Alan Parkinson’s intention is to stimulate visitors to a sense of wonder to the beauty of light and color, and create an environment where the visitors experience is influenced by their own relation to space. Architects of Air is based in Nottingham UK, in a 4000 sq. ft. former textile workshop. The company has six permanent staff and employs fifteen plus temporary staff for touring and construction.” – from


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