Architects of Air, an amazingly huge walk-through art installation, contemplative space, homage to geometry and receptacle of light and color, is returning to the West Lawn of the Long Center on November 20-29, 2015. Architects of Air features a series of interactive, inflatable, brightly colored ‘sculptures’ that visitors actually enter. If you have visited before, this year there is a brand-new luminarium: Pentalum.
In 2014, Architects of Air visited Austin for the third time, bringing the luminarium Miracoco. Nearly 10,000 people visited the structure in one week. Each time the company visits the Long Center, the skyline of downtown Austin is literally transformed by a different luminarium. This engagement will be the first time visitors in Austin will have the chance to explore Pentalum, the third appearance in the United States and the only Texas stop on the tour.
Once the luminarium is installed and inflated, it is visible from across the city, including downtown Austin and all along Lady Bird Lake and the trails. Visitors who enter the structure experience a spectacular and surreal world, spending up to 30 minutes touring the visually stunning interiors of the luminarium. Light and color combine for an intense experience that lends itself to meditation, relaxation and fun.
Although Architects of Air is intended for all ages, this magical experience particularly appeals to children. Here’s what you need to know if you plan to take your kids:
Hours: Architects of Air is open to the public November 20-29, weekdays from 11AM to 5PM, weekends from 10AM to 5PM (final admission at 5PM). It will be closed on Thanksgiving Day.
Tickets: Same-day tickets are available at the Long Center. Admission is $12 per person over 18 years old, $8 for ages 3-17, and, children 2 and under are free (Children 16 and under must be accompanied by an adult – 1 adult for every 4 children). “Fast passes”, which allow you priority access, are only available to Long Center season ticket holders. More info here. You can purchase your tickets with a credit card on site.
You may have to wait. A vast majority of attendees will purchase tickets onsite, and only 80 people are allowed into the structure at a time. Visitors will spend an average of 30 minutes inside. That means that you may be waiting in line, so if you have the flexibility to go early or during the week, you will have less of a wait. Friends who have gone in 2015 have waited about two hours. Keep in mind some school districts are off all Thanksgiving week (but not the Austin school district).
Come prepared. Pack snacks and drinks for younger children and prepare your kids for a wait. Make sure everyone has socks on. A series of fans blows air inside to keep the structure upright, but on a sunny day, the luminarium can get quite warm, so dress accordingly. Keep in mind that you’ll leave your shoes in the reception area (at your own risk) and you won’t want to be carrying too much inside the structure. If the weather is nice, the Great Lawn is a wonderful place to play and run around. If you bring along an extra adult along, one person can hold your spot in line while the other watches the kids.
Curb your children’s enthusiasm. Many children are so accustomed to getting out their energy at indoor play spaces with inflatables that children have a hard time resisting the urge to run in, jump on, or poke at the walls of the luminarium. Even after discussing the fragility of the plastic with my 9-year-old, I found myself a little on edge during our visit, as I was worried that he might accidentally damage the sculpture as he laid down in the chambers, crawled around and went into the many of the corners, looking for where you could spot the grass just on the other side of the plastic. The luminarium is a place for quiet contemplation, a place to walk and you might need to remind your kids to stay close, as it’s easy to get separated (although it’s not large enough to really lose your kids). I would suggest explaining to your children that visiting the luminarium is like having the chance to walk inside a museum, even if it does not look like one and be prepared to re-remind them of this once they are inside.
Built in 2013, Pentalum is a celebration of the beauty of geometry. The luminaria have long used forms based on the Platonic solid, the dodecahedron, and the variants subsequently described by Archimedes and Catalan. The designer, Alan Parkinson, particularly favors these forms because of how they can complement the sense of discovery. They do this because they are forms that don’t have symmetrical axes to settle the viewer in the space.
The international success of Architects of Air has grown out of a theatre project for people with learning disabilities. Accessibility to the widest audience has always been a central goal of their work, and these installations are appreciated by all ages, all cultures and all abilities. The luminarium is accessible to wheelchair users and people with mobility difficulties.