You are viewing this article in the archives. For the latest breaking news and updates in Ann Arbor and the surrounding area, see
Posted on Tue, Jun 21, 2011 : 8:56 a.m.

Architects of Air will inflate their largest 'luminarium' at the Summer Festival

By Jennifer Eberbach


"Amococo" publicity photo

The Ann Arbor Summer Festival is presenting an awe-inspiring treat this year. UK group Architects of Air, which directed by founder Allen Parkinson, will set up an enormous 10,000-square-foot inflatable “luminarium,” a network of domes and pods that you can walk through. The four-day interactive art installation, called "Amococo," will reside at the University of Michigan's Palmer Field.

The luminarium is made of translucent vinyl. It is held up pneumatically, by air. Orchestrated lighting casts mesmerizing colors across its 86 triaxial domes and 71 pods that you can walk through and explore. Vistiors will have 20 minutes to explore the labyrinth-like structure.

Summer Festival Executive Director Robb Woulfe has “had the pleasure of visiting a number of the Architects of Air luminaria over the years,” he says. “For me, the experience has a very dreamlike quality to it, where you feel almost hypnotized by the vibrant color and light. It is extremely peaceful and serene, like a sanctuary.”

The look and feel of "Amococo" may suggest different things to different people. To some, it might feel like being inside the human body or inside some kind of deep sea creature. Others might find it futuristic. Or you might find it ethereal like being in an alternate reality. Part of the fun is having your own unique experience inside the space.



  • Who: UK's Architects of Air.
  • What: Giant, inflatable "luminarium" that visitors can walk through and explore.
  • Where: Palmer Field. A path will be marked from the Summer Festival's Top of the Park site, at Ingalls Mall on East Washington Street, across Washtenaw Avenue to the site of the installation.
  • When: "Amococo" will be open June 23 through June 26. On June 23 and June 24 it will be open from 4-9 p.m., and on June 25 and June 26 it will be open from noon-9 p.m.
  • How much: $5 (children under 3, free).
The Summer Festival’s announcement of the event notes that "Amococo" is inspired by forms found in architecture: “Islamic art and architecture, Archimedean solids and Gothic cathedrals meld together to form an inspiring monument to the unexpected beauty of color and light.”

The Architects of Air use the "oculus"—a round window commonly found on domes—as a “visual motif,” according to their website. Ovoid openings, which are repeated throughout the structure, let light and color play across the translucent surface in an mesmerizing way. In their statements about their luminaria, they state that this play of light “is most strikingly effective in the cupola of the central dome where the ceiling resonates with iridescent rainbow hues.”

Human interaction with the artwork is an important part of the experience. You are invited to simply walk through the installation, sit and meditate on the installation’s form, color, and lights, or you can react to the space in spontaneous ways. The mystery of the space is how you will choose to experience it and what you will see people doing when you get there.

According to the Summer Festival, Architects of Air use very little machinery to create their luminaria, and they are mostly assembled by hand. Touring Exhibition Manager James Stephenson will explain how they make them at a presentation on June 25 from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. at the Pittsfield Branch of the Ann Arbor District Library.

There will be a well-marked path from Ingalls Mall to the luminarium’s entrance on Palmer Field (across the footbridge above Washtenaw Avenue). Tickets will be available at its entrance during the hours it is open. They will stop letting people in 20 minutes before closing time.

People of all ages and physical abilities can explore the installation. It is wheelchair accessible. Children under 16 must attend with an adult. Be ready to remove your shoes before entering.

This is the first time Architects of Air have brought one of their luminaria to town, and this is their only exhibition in the Midwest this year. They have exhibited in 37 countries and 5 continents more than 500 times, since Parkinson found the group in 1992.



Sun, Jun 26, 2011 : 5:40 p.m.

It might have been nice to note that the wait for this is 2.5 hours or more. It's really a waste of time to drive down there, park, walk over, only to find out about the unreasonably long wait.

lindsay erin

Tue, Jun 21, 2011 : 3:02 p.m.

Thanks for sharing this... I'm totally going to check it out :)