Journey of an Architect is a blog started by Tim Ung to share his architecture and design ideas through speculative projects. His posts focus on his design process, thoughts, struggles, and successes throughout his journey.

What I Re-learned about architecture from a temporary exhibition

What I Re-learned about architecture from a temporary exhibition


This weekend, I took time off from designing my 30x30 projects and visited a temporary inflatable exhibit by Architects of Air called the Arboria Luminarium, which was only stopping in two locations in America. I heard about this event through word of mouth and I decided that I wouldn’t research the exhibition or look at any flyers so that I could truly experience the project without any prior criticism. With only an address in hand, I made my way to the exhibit and I was very excited when I saw the Luminarium in the distance.

Experiencing the Arboria Luminarium

Before entering the inflatable structure, everyone had to take off their shoes and one of the staff members lifted a plastic membrane for people to enter. In the first room, a staff member gives a brief overview of where each Luminarium is located and goes through general guidelines and rules to follow. Once this session is complete, everyone is allowed to walk through the entire inflatable structure, which has so much light, color, and amazing tunnels.

Once I reached the first Luminarium, I was amazed by the patterns, light, and color of the green ceiling that enclosed a large space. As I walked around the green Luminarium, I began to see the green ceiling turn cyan and then grey. Every space in the Arboria Luminarium was filled with diffused colored light and beautiful patterns. These colors would overlap one another in every space, creating different color gradients and effects.

Learning about the Architect’s passion and process of design

After spending lots of time in the Arboria Luminarium, I purchased the Architects of Air book and learned about Alan Parkinson’s process of designing inflatable structures over 20 years. In the last few chapters of the book, Parkinson talks about where this passion for designing inflatable structures comes from and describes his experience designing his first inflatable project.

While looking through the sketches that Parkinson shared in his book, I saw that there were many refinements and lessons learned from one project to the next. For example, during the construction of one of the inflatable structures, the manufacturer was using a very thin PVC film and they ensured Parkinson that the structures were complete and free of any holes. Without any time left to check the construction, Parkinson and his team shipped the structure to its destination, filled it with air, and realized that there were very small pin holes everywhere in the Luminarium spaces.

Rather than seeing this as a mistake, Parkinson continued with the exhibition and visitors gave positive comments about the pin holes and thought that they were a part of the original design. Learning from this experience, Parkinson moved onto the next inflatable project and used a different PVC film to construct the final design.

Deciding not to submit project 4x30 - Competition

As I read through the book and saw that Parkinson has been working on these inflatable structures for such a long period of time, I started thinking about my own process of design and my current schedule for designing project 4x30 – Competition. A thought that I had about Parkinson’s 20 years of designing these inflatable structures was that he must have had days when he questioned whether or not his ideas were worth pursuing or feeling burned out from designing the same kinds of projects every day.

However, I’m assuming Parkinson’s passion for design is what motivated him to continue working on his inflatable projects over such a long period of time. His passion and dedication reminded me of my personal belief that all of my architecture projects should always be fun, engaging, and designed to the best of my ability.

While working on project 4x30 – Competition, I realized that I was rushing to design an entire island of existing and new buildings alone. Since this project was started with a group of students, I felt obligated to complete and submit the project in the competition. This feeling led to me working in overdrive to create the existing site model and renovations of existing buildings over two weeks. I realized that I was working on this project in autopilot mode where my only goal was to finish the project and submit it on time.


So I thought about my current trajectory for project 4x30 – Competition, which is due in two weeks from today and I’ve accepted the fact that I won’t be able to complete this project by the competition’s deadline. Instead, I’ll continue working on 4x30 as a theoretical project and take my time having fun with the design process and thinking through every design decision that comes up. I’m grateful that I was able to re-establish my belief that every architecture project I put out into the world should be something that I love and was done to the best of my ability.

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