Alan Parkinson - Founder and designer of AoA
“I design luminaria because I want to share my sense of wonder at the phenomenon of light. A luminarium provides the frame for an encounter with a light whose surprising and simple intensity cuts through conditioned perception.”
Founder, designer and artistic director Alan 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 to build and tour his luminarium designs. Since, Architects of Air, a Nottingham based company has made over 500 exhibitions in 3more then 40 countries.
The company has 5 permanent staff in charge of the management of the design and build, of the maintenance, and for the production and the logistics involved in the worldwide touring of the luminaria.
For each event AoA employs Exhibition Managers who work to create the best experience for the visitors, for the stewards, and for the host presenter. Their main responsibility is the safe management of the physical structure of the luminarium and, of equal importance, assuring the presentation of the luminarium in a professional manner appropriate to its merits. It is also the AoA Exhibition Manager’s duty to train and advise the stewards in the running of the luminarium.
For each new build AoA employs makers who will cut and assemble thousands of pieces of PVC and zips during a period of about 4 to 6 months to create the monumental sculptures.
AoA is always open to meeting new people who are interested in the structures or in getting involved with the company. We have particular room for development in the area of schools and education as well as work in the field of special needs.
The design and build
Architects of Air aim to build a new luminarium every year. A luminarium will take 4 to 6 months to build entirely by hand by a workforce of about 6 people.
The luminaria are made in AoA’s Nottingham workshop using a PVC custom-made uniquely for AoA. A luminarium will last for about 300 days of exhibition spread over about 4 years before it is cut into pieces to be recycled.
The functionality of the structure as a temporary building is a prime consideration in the design process. Aspects of functionality include portability, drainage, stability in windy conditions, accessibility to permit passage of wheelchairs, and a modularity to enable the structures to be reconfigured for different sites. A single skin inflatable structure does not permit a separation of function from form; the same piece of material must work visually and structurally. So functional initiatives are taken whilst ensuring the aesthetic implications of the functionality are consistent with the visual unity of the structure.
One of the exciting things about inflatable making is not knowing exactly what one has got until it is finally blown up outdoors and it is able to stretch out to its full extent.
Published in 2013 to celebrate the 20 years of designing and touring the luminaria, The Most Beautiful charts the story of Architects of Air’s monumental ephemeral sculptures that have wowed millions of visitors around the world. Sumptuous full-colour photographs capture the wonder that the luminaria inspire, and a comprehensive technical section guides the reader through the creation of these unique works.