Inflatable Architecture: Exxopolis

The Pittsburgh Children’s Festival was this last week, which combines theater and activities for kids. I seem to recall such a festival being held at the Children’s Museum when I was a kid, but now it’s on the University of Pittsburgh campus. I saw Aga-Boom this year for the second time, which is a Russian show with clowns and mime and a crazy ending. You haven’t seen kids lose their fucking MINDS until you’ve seen Aga-Boom. Anyway, this year they also had an interesting pavilion set up called Exxopolis.

Exxopolis Exterior

From the description: “Exxopolis is a sculpture people enter to be immersed in radiant light and colour … The luminosity of light and colour inside Exxopolis is created purely by the light shining through the coloured plastic.”

Exxopolis Map

You enter into a foyer where you are warned not to shred the walls and/or floor and then are allowed to explore the various domes. The effect is pretty dramatic.

Green Dome 02

Green Dome 01

The blue and red domes are pretty similar. I looked for changes in peoples’ mood in each dome but I didn’t notice anything dramatic. There were fewer people in the red dome, but that may have just been coincidence.

Blue Dome 01

Blue Dome 02

Blue Dome 03

Red Dome 01

All the lines that you see are where two pieces of plastic have been welded together. Another quote from the description “All the individual pieces have been cut & glued together by hand in our workshop in Nottingham, England.” Here’s a close up of some of the seams:

Exxopolis Assembly

The transitional spaces were some of the most interesting, when you could see the light from the other domes bleeding into the hallways.


There were two unique rooms, one called “tree”, for obvious reasons:

Tree 01

Tree 02

Tree 03

It reminds me of something out of an alien spaceship, where the craft itself might be alive, like Battlestar Galactica. The Cupola had some Islamic-inspired windows and ceilings:

Cupola 01

Cupola 02

I was pleasantly surprised by this space. To most kids, “inflatable architecture” means bounce house. Not that there’s anything wrong with a bounce house. In fact, I could have done with some bouncing. I think what’s most impressive is that there’s no “structure”. As a crude example, a bounce house usually has 4 inflatable posts that hold up a flimsy ceiling. This whole structure is internally pressurized, and so there are no “columns”. The closest thing to structure are the seams in the plastic, which almost completely disappear at the walls. If you have kids you should already be at the Children’s Festival, but the Exxopolis is worth a look even if you’re childless and alone. Just don’t hang around too long, creeper.

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