From January 3 to 27, the Sydney Opera House’s forecourt was taken over by a giant inflatable maze called EXXOPOLIS. The structure, called a luminarium, contained light in the same way that an aquarium contains water. It was a creation by Architects of Air, a UK-based group that designs inflatable walk-in sculptures.
The structure combined winding paths and domes, with elements inspired by sources as diverse as Islamic architecture, Archimedean solids, and Gothic cathedrals. EXXOPOLIS included a main dome with a centerpiece called the “Cupola” that was designed based on the late 13th-century polygonal Chapter House of Southwell Minster in Nottinghamshire, England.
The luminarium was designed to use light in an unusual way to create a unique sensory experience for visitors. The daylight radiated through the PVC material of the structure to create a luminous effect. The colors blended and transformed the appearance of people as they followed their maps through the maze. EXXOPOLIS was intended to combine light and color in a way that stimulated the senses and created a sense of wonder.
The inflatable maze measured 53 meters (159 feet) long and about nine meters (27 feet) high. It used 3,000 square meters (27,000 square feet) of plastic in 9,000 pieces. It took 55 people six months to build it initially, but it could be erected in four hours and inflated in only 20 minutes.
Architects of Air created EXXOPOLIS in 2012 to celebrate their 20th anniversary. It is an homage to the company’s first luminarium, EGGOPOLIS.
Antenna maker GATR Technologies has created an innovative flexible parabolic dish that is mounted inside an inflatable sphere. This design reduces the weight and packaged volume by up to 80 percent, which improves the agility of military and disaster response personnel. The U.S. military has awarded the company a $440 million contract for the technology.
The Inflatable Satellite Antennas (ISAs) have a lightweight design that costs less than conventional deployable SATCOM antenna systems, which dramatically reduces transportation costs. The larger size of the dish allows the military to use satellite bandwidth capacity more effectively, which increases bandwidth for users and allows more people to communicate at the same time.
GATR is currently making dishes that are 1.2, 1.8, and 2.4 meters in diameter. The antennas perform as well as rigid deployable antennas of the same size, but with significantly smaller size and weight.
In December, seven ISA systems were deployed in the Philippines to assist in the recovery from Typhoon Haiyan that devastated the country in November. They provided high-bandwidth communications that were essential to coordinate the recovery effort, since the communications infrastructure had been destroyed by the storm. These were the first high-bandwidth satellite communications terminals used in key areas.
The U.S. Army’s Warfighter Information Network-Tactical awarded the five-year contract to provide integrated communications solutions. The U.S. and Allied militaries have used 300 ISA terminals since 2008. This allows conventional forces to benefit from the same cost savings, lighter weight, and smaller size as other branches of the military, including Special Operations and Marine Corps Expeditionary Units.