Bare footed on a recent sunny afternoon along Sydney harbour, I was inhaled through an oscillating plastic skin-flap doorway into a swollen-bellied, swaying structure nestled beside the Opera House. Immediately drenched in deeply saturated green light, I peered across a cavernous dome into the vibrant labyrinth of cool and bloody hues that is Exxopolis.

The ventricles of an alien world…

Exxopolis is a luminarium – an “aquarium of light”, as some describe, designed and constructed by artist collective ‘Architects of Light’ in 2012 with the volunteered assistance of community groups in the UK. As the Architects state, Exxopolis “occupies half a football field and rises to the height of a 3-storey house. EXXOPOLIS took 6 months to build with 55 people contributing to the making.  It used 3,000m2 of plastic in its construction in 9,000 individual pieces joined with 6 kilometres of seams”. The experience is reportedly ever-changing according to the specific conditions of the outside weather and natural light which penetrates the thin plastic skin of the structure and illuminates it’s interior. Exxopolis was on show at Sydney Harbour from 3rd – 27th of January this year; a delightful marvel to unexpectedly stumble upon.


Exxopolis at Sydney harbour. Image credit: Daniel Boud (source)

Like stepping aboard an alien spaceship, wandering through the arteries and organs of a softly breathing beast, or being on the inside of a balloon, the luminarium was a truly otherworldly artistic experience. The senses are stimulated by the indescribable intensity of brightly coloured light, sounds sliding down and seeping through the thin plastic skin, and the intricate patterns which splay across the ceilings of the domes.


Architectural structure within the red dome.


Blue dome ceiling.

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The way people inhabit the space, like creatures meditatively gliding through the chambers of a lusciously glowing aquarium, was interesting in itself. There are many ‘pods’ along the connecting tunnels and within the main domes of the building; I observed people gently brushing palms against the unthinkably thin PVC skin; lovers embracing within the ruby-red radiance, children lying with their backs agains the cool floor, doused in a blaze of electric blue, watching the wind ripple patterned dome ceilings reminiscent of stained-glass chapel windows, and elastic walls supporting more solitudinous souls, meditating in the glow of radioactive green.


Ceiling design of the central dome.


An image by John Owens (from Architects of Air website) of the breathtaking central dome. For more photographs of Exxopolis have a click through the official website here.

An image by John Owens (from Architects of Air website) of the breathtaking central dome. For more photographs of Exxopolis have a squiz through the official website here.


Architects of Air, 2014; ‘About Exopolis’, Architects of Air, accessed on 4th March 2014 at: http://www.architects-of-air.com/luminaria/exxopolis.html