nic brunsdon envisions giant inflatable sphere that 'inhales' & 'exhales' air for NGV triennial

nic brunsdon envisions giant inflatable sphere that 'inhales' & 'exhales' air for NGV triennial

(this is) air by nic brunsdon: a poignant architecture commission


The NGV Triennial returns this year with a monumental Architecture Commission presented by local architect Nic Brunsdon and industrial design group ENESS, entitled (This is) Air. A poignant study of air and time, this fully inflated spherical structure will stand over 14 meters tall, evoking a sense of uplifting optimism. Similarly to commissions from previous years — including Temple of Boom (2022) by Adam Newman and Kelvin Tsang from studio NWMN, La ropa sucia se lava en casa (2022) by Tatiana Bilbao, and Garden Wall (2018) by Retallack Thompson and Other Architects — the spherical installation spotlights a thought-provoking view of our world today. The 2023 NGV Triennial edition will take place from December 3, 2023, to June 2024 at NGV International, St Kilda Road, Melbourne. 

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Render of (This is) Air by Nic Brunsdon, the 2023 NGV Architecture Commission on display at NGV International, Melbourne from December 3, 2023 | render courtesy Nic Brunsdon



exploring air as a vital resource at ngv triennial 2023 with eness


Making the invisible visible, (This is) Air, developed by Nic Brunsdon (find more here) in collaboration with ENESS (and here) for NGV Triennial 2023 edition, draws attention to one of the universal and defining features of life on Earth: breathing air. Utilizing air as a building material, the commission will morph and change throughout the day as it expands and then releases air in a natural rhythm. Throughout the day, the structure will ‘exhale’, releasing gusts of air and forming an array of cloud-like configurations before filling once more. Ultimately, the installation invites audiences to consider humanity’s relationship to this essential yet invisible element. By making air seen, heard, and felt, the work highlights our connection to and dependency on air – a finite resource whose quality is becoming increasingly affected.

nic brunsdon NGV designboom
a giant inflatable sphere that seems to be breathing air, in and out | render courtesy Nic Brunsdon



The idea for this project was conceived by the architect during the global pandemic, when the air we breathed was suddenly at the forefront of everyone’s mind. Taking the form of a giant inflatable sphere, this living structure inhales and exhales before our eyes, giving presence to that omnipresent yet invisible element that connects us all. Air can be understood as part of our global economic, social and ecological realities. And yet, the quality of air we breathe varies depending on where and how we live. Air is universal, yet clean air is not,’ comments Ewan McEoin, NGV Senior Curator Contemporary Art, Design and Architecture at NGV. 

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the sculpture will morph throughout the day | render courtesy Nic Brunsdon



This year’s Architecture Commission forms part of the 2023 NGV Triennial exhibition in Melbourne, bringing contemporary art, design, and architecture into dialogue, offering a visually arresting and thought-provoking view of today’s world. Three key thematic pillars of Magic, Matter, and Memory anchor the NGV Triennial, with Nic Brunsdon’s architectural concept responding to the thematic pillar of Matter. This theme draws together nature, material, and making, reminding audiences of the interconnected frameworks of biology, geology, and physics while highlighting their relationship to and reliance on natural systems. Throughout the summer months, (This is) Air will be the location for many public programs, performances, and more in the NGV Garden.

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‘inhaling’ and ‘exhaling’ | courtesy NGV International


render courtesy Nic Brunsdon

nic brunsdon envisions giant inflatable sphere that 'inhales' & 'exhales' air for NGV triennial
Temple of Boom (2022) by Adam Newman & Kelvin Tsang at the NGV garden | image © Sean Fennessy

nic brunsdon envisions giant inflatable sphere that 'inhales' & 'exhales' air for NGV triennial
La ropa sucia se lava en casa / Dirty clothes are washed at home (2022) by Tatiana Bilbao for MECCA x NGV Women in Design Commission | image © Kate Shanasy

nic brunsdon envisions giant inflatable sphere that 'inhales' & 'exhales' air for NGV triennial
Garden Wall (2018) by Retallack Thompson and Other Architects at the NGV garden | image © John Gollings



project info:


name: (This is) Air 

location: St Kilda Road, Melbourne 

architect: Nic Brunsdon@nicbrunsdon

collaborator: ENESS@studioeness 

commissioned by: NGV International

program: NGV Triennial 2023 

viewing dates: December 3, 2023 – January 2024

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