Cathedral of luminosity: Architects of Air set up 'Miracoco' at WSU

Geoff Crimmins
People walk through the inflatable PVC Miracoco luminarium at Washington State University in Pullman. The hand-made art structure will be open through Saturday.

Like tumbling down Alice’s rabbit hole, a trip to the Architects of Air Miracoco exhibit on Washington State University campus transports visitors to a world unlike any they’ve experienced.

Jewel toned tunnels, pods and domes modeled after Middle Eastern architecture mimic cathedrals in some areas, night skies and trees in others, creating a journey through myriad iridescent spaces. Externally, the luminarium conjures thoughts of aliens landing. Silver domes stand upright as other shapes jut off in odd labyrinthine angles. Built in 2011, Miracoco represents a new step in the evolution of luminarium design, says Architects of Air.

It’s dodecahedral center dome is the most voluminous of any created before, suggestive of the Indian Lotus Temple in New Delhi. As enjoyable and relaxing as a stroll through the colorful tunnels can be, the creation of the structures themselves is precise and labor intensive. Architects of Air is based in a 4,000 square foot space in Nottingham, U.K., formerly used as a  textile workshop. It employs only five permanent staff members, but hires about 15 temporary employees for construction and touring. AOA  typically commits  winter, when not touring, to the creation of a new luminarium –  a project that takes four to five people five to six months to complete.

Each piece of custom manufactured polyvinyl chloride sheeting must be cut and glued by hand and in accordance with precise measurements that allow the completed structure to stand without a wrinkle when inflated. The seams are a uniform 33 millimeters and serve not only to maintain maximum invisibility, but also to introduce light and color to the structure and to separate hues much like the lead in stained glass windows. Luminaria are expected to last for 300 exhibition days – about four years – before being cut into pieces and recycled. AOA, which often has four luminaria on tour during spring and summer, has staged over 500 exhibitions in 37 countries since 1992. This is the first time an exhibit  has visited the Inland Northwest.

IF YOU GO WHAT: Architects of Air Miracoco exhibit WHEN: Wednesday through Friday 12a.m.-6 p.m., Saturday 11a.m.-5p.m. WHERE: 1950 Grimes Way, Pullman COST: $5 for WSU students, $10 general admission

Images of the inflatable "Miracoco" luminarium at Washington State Univeristy. (Geoff Crimmins/Inland360) [gallery link="file" columns="4" ids="41881,41880,41879,41878"]

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