The origins of Architects of Air lay in a Nottingham community project that began in 1981. Alan Parkinson was employed to manage a team of offenders who had been sentenced by the courts to serve their punishment by working for the benefit of the community. These offenders had built a small inflatable mattress and were responsible for erecting it and supervising the different community groups who would use it – these groups being typically from centres that may have served disadvantaged children.
The original mattress that offenders had built had some design defects that required frequent repair and this led Alan to learn how to make design and build better structures.
In 1985, inspired by a structure built by Roger Hutchinson of Leicester Interplay, Alan built his first walk-in inflatable environments and began a series of collaborations with local artists – in particular dance and theatre companies – who developed structured activities inside the inflatable environments. One of the main client groups for these collaborations was centres for people with disabilities.
In 1990 a three-way collaboration between one such centre and a theatre company led to the building of a large structure to tour the UK performing for audiences with disabilities. This structure was Eggopolis. In 1992 Eggopolis was invited to a festival in Edinburgh where it entertained its first paying general public. The reaction from press & public was huge and ‘Architects of Air’ was created the following year.