Bouncy magic

SANDGROPERS have a rare chance to experience a spectacular labyrinth of light, air and sound with the luminarium arriving at Fremantle Arts Centre.

Created by the renowned Architects of Air, the luminarium is a giant 45m by 35m inflatable structure with 1000sqm of glowing tunnels and caverns for all ages to explore.

Since 1992, more than three million people in over 40 countries have immersed themselves in Architects of Air’s atmospheric worlds. 

In Perth for the first time, the ‘Aborialis’ luminarium is dedicated to trees, and once inside it feels like you are lost in a magical forest with radiant canopies and vibrant foliage.

Enhancing the atmosphere is a soundtrack by Irish composer Dr Michael Morris, inspired by spirituality and the sounds of nature. 

• The spectacular Aborialis luminarium is in Perth for the first time. photos by Jane Barlow

The luminarium is the brainchild of Architects of Air founder Alan Parkinson. Growing up, the Englishman was fascinated by light and went on to study photography at university.

“I design luminaria because I want to share my sense of wonder at the phenomenon of light,” Parkinson said. “A luminarium provides the frame for an encounter with a light whose surprising and simple intensity cuts through conditioned perception.

“I’ve long had an interest in light. At 11 years of age I was a keen photographer with my own darkroom.”

But it took a chance encounter with some criminals and an airbed in 1982, before the luminarium seed was planted in Parkinson’s mind.

“I had taken a part-time job as a minibus driver for a community project to supplement my work as a photography teacher,” Parkinson said. “The project provided work in the community for criminal offenders and they, in turn, supervised the play activity of groups identified as ‘in need’ (inner city kids’ groups, centres for adults and children with handicaps).

“The offenders had built a large bouncy airbed and my job was just a half-day a week, ferrying the inflatable and the offenders and supervising the play session.”

The airbed has some structural weaknesses, so Parkinson came up with a better design, and from that point onwards he built up his inflatable skills, eventually founding Architects of Air in 1992.

Hand built by about six people in a workshop in Nottingham, a luminarium takes about four to six months to build.

It’s then exhibited around the world for 300 days, spread over four years, before being cut into pieces and recycled.

 A multi-sensory maze of light, air and sound, one visitor has described it as “somewhere between a womb and a cathedral”.

Despite the enormous success of his luminaria, Parkinson still gets nervous before a new creation is unveiled.

“Usually things do work out and I am continually amazed by how well the luminaria engage people’s attention and enthusiasm,” he said

“Perhaps there is a modern need that is met by this kind of secular hybrid cathedral/mosque structure in which light is the nourishment that feeds a hunger for meaning. 

“Whatever its significance may be I feel very fortunate to have stumbled across this way of making my living.”

The Aborialis Luminarium is at Fremantle Arts Centre until October 8. Tix at



Leave a Reply