New inflatable design installation adds light to Expo 2020 Dubai

The 'Dodecalis Luminarium' has travelled through 43 countries and is now on show in the UAE

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Inside and out, the Dodecalis Luminarium is undoubtedly eye-catching. The design installation, which has travelled to 43 countries, has now arrived at Expo 2020 Dubai, where it is welcoming visitors at the Festival Garden.

On the outside, the inflatable structure looks like a playground with its dodecahedron-inspired plastic shapes that look like stars and an octopus. Inside, the work reveals itself as a luminarium, a structure specifically designed to showcase light and colour.

Made by UK arts organisation Architects of Air, it comprises a series of tunnels and rooms, with different sections casting off different light showcases, from laser-green patterns on the dome ceiling to deep, dramatic reds.

Architecture, design and light come together to give visitors an experience that plays with orientation and space, as well as provide a chance to explore these colourful artificial environments and be entertained.

This is part of the intention of Alan Parkinson, the founder and designer of Architects of Air, who made his first pneumatic sculptures in the 1980s. His company has set up more than 500 exhibits such as Dodecalis Luminarium around the world.

Because of the material of the structure, the outside light affects the colours and vibrance of the interiors, creating a shifting experience throughout the day. Architects of Air have shown similar installations, such as the Daedalum, a maze made up of 19 interconnected egg-shaped domes, seen in London in 2019.

A bird's eye view of the inflatable structure at Expo 2020 Dubai. Photo: Expo 2020 Dubai

In describing the piece in Dubai, Parkinson referred to it as “somewhere between a womb and a cathedral”, saying that visitors’ “encounter with the phenomenon of light” can open up to consolation or inspiration.

The installation borrows from works by artists such as Olafur Eliasson, whose large-scale and immersive installations makes use of light, air and water, and James Turrell, whose practice explores the materiality of light and its effects on human perception. Turrell is known for his contemplative "skyspaces", which bring natural light into a space through an aperture, as well as his shifting light sculptures.

With its playful exterior and labyrinthine interior, the Dodecalis Luminarium appeals to people across all ages. Currently, the installation at Expo 2020 Dubai has a reduced capacity, accepting 56 guests at a time.

Entry to Dodecalis Luminarium is free. The installation is open from 10am to 10pm on weekdays; 11am to 11.20pm on weekends. More information is available at expo2020dubai.com

Updated: February 06, 2022, 1:21 PM