Buffalo’s Outer Harbor will have its own lakeside “castle” this weekend.
The Arboria luminarium, a maze of massive inflatable plastic sculptures, resembles a classy bounce house.
But a bounce house it is not.
“It’s like a blow-up castle, and looks like a big bounce house,” said Matthew LaSota, general manager of the Outer Harbor Management Group, who on Wednesday afternoon watched the completion of the labyrinth’s seven-hour installation at Wilkeson Pointe.
The 550-square-foot attraction, which features seven plastic “bubble” sections, was designed by a British company, Architects of Air. The sections, folded flat like sleeping bags, were flown to Buffalo in five metal crates.
Workers spent the day rolling the handmade sections out, stretching them, zippering them together, then inflating the structure and anchoring it solidly to the ground.
The luminarium has traveled all over the world, enchanting visitors in 41 countries on five continents.
Outer Harbor Management – which won the three-year contract to run events and park events at Wilkeson Pointe – is excited for its debut, kicking off the summer season today.
So it went all out – bringing in the unique, silver-colored luminarium featuring a mix of primary colors of red, green, blue and yellow on its exterior. Inside, visitors can walk through a guided maze of winding paths and soaring domes that create monuments of light, color and sound.
Described as “a sanctuary of the senses,” the luminarium made a perfect choice for the opening weekend attraction at The Pointe. Those who check it out walk barefoot or in socks across the “floor” and let their senses take over for the 30-minute experience.
“We wanted to have a unique opening for Memorial Day, and wanted something good for families and kids,” LaSota said. “It’s unique and funky.”
The giant structure, made by hand in Nottingham, England, is visible from the lake and from the Skyway, in a prime spot at Wilkeson Pointe near the Outer Harbor’s grassy park and the Coast Guard station and lighthouse on Fuhrmann Boulevard.
Outer Harbor Management Buffalo selected the Arboria structure because of its focus on trees and nature.
Each night the luminarium will be deflated, and inflated again the next morning.
Even LaSota admitted it is hard to describe. But all who got a glimpse of it going up were impressed with its “wow” factor Wednesday afternoon.
“I was definitely wondering what that was,” said Tammy Baldwin of Lancaster, who was bicycling with her husband, Christopher, and stopped to look at it, their curiosity piqued. “When we first got here, it was flat.”
By the time they left the park, it had taken shape. “We are very curious,” said Baldwin, who thought it might be worth bringing her children to see it this weekend.
Sara Colistro of Black Rock was walking her 11-week-old English bulldog puppy, Ollie, with her boyfriend, Tom Gilbert, and noticed it. “I thought it was a bounce house, but it’s cool. It’s unique,” she said.
Shona Wright and Shanti Freed traveled from England as the official two-person team to assemble the luminarium.
“It’s just beautiful. It’s stunning,” Wright said. “It’s walking through different colors, and each part has a different feel to it because of color.”
Natural outdoor light enters through the structure’s colorful pieces, casting a burst of color inside to create a dramatic glow of light on shapes and forms. In one section, a brightly luminous tree trunk and branches reach above one’s head.
Even overcast skies can’t dampen the experience.
“As a cloud goes over, it changes the inside, and that’s the beauty of it,” Wright said. “It’s for coming and being in. You can sit down in there, stop and breathe, and catch a break in this hectic world.”
Walk-up tickets are available, but online tickets can be purchased as well, and are recommended for the weekend.
Tickets are $8 for adults and $5 for children 12 and younger, and can be purchased online at outerharborbuffalo.com.
Hours for the castle are 1:30 to 7:30 p.m. Thursday and Friday; 11:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday; and 11:30 to 5:30 p.m. Monday.
New to The Pointe this season is a beer garden and concessions and snacks. Kayaks, water bikes, paddleboards and bicycle rentals also are available for the first time.