Skyspaces, by James Turrell

Monday, 25th October 2010 by

James Turrell is an enigmatic American artist known for playing with the viewer’s concepts of light and space. His creations include an ambitious series of works called Skyspaces, of which Roden Crater is the most notable example where a series of structures which are intended to present visitors with carefully controlled vistas of light from the ever-changing sky.

Turrell purchased the extinct volcanic crater in Arizona in 1979, and has spent the subsequent years designing and secretively constructing an observatory. A spectacular central observation chamber is accompanied by at least one other platform, with various aspects giving views of the sun, moon and stars. The vernal equinoxes are also highlighted.

It is believed that this project has been a real struggle for Turrell, with opening dates regularly being set and later postponed1. Despite the secrecy surrounding the location, a number of people have been granted permission to access the site2 via the winding road which climbs the volcanic cone. Others have entered without permission. The New York Times also has a good article about Roden Crater.

Twenty five other Skyspaces are spread across the planet. Some are in natural locations like Roden Crater, but many are in galleries, museums and private buildings. The general concept is similar to the above – a tranquil room which allows people to sit peacefully and observe a limited section of the sky through an opening in a wall or the ceiling – an experience many find to be inspirational or meditative.

We’ve listing a few of them below, and challenge our readers to find the others (listed on Wikipedia) and provide links to them in the comments!

There are two Skyspaces in northern England: Deer Shelter at Yorkshire Sculpture Park and Kielder Skyspace near Kielder Water in Northumberland.

Sky Pesher3 at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis may not be much to look at from Street View, but their website gives a good sense of the beauty found inside.

Tending, (Blue), found in Dallas, has an attractive stone exterior, but again the real beauty to be found in these locations can only be seen from the inside – where the Street View car hasn’t ventured… yet!

  1. The current plan is to open in 2011. 

  2. The images and (soundless) video linked to here are included on a large number of pages. I’m not sure where they originated. 

  3. Wikipedia defines Pesher as ‘a Hebrew word meaning “interpretation” in the sense of “solution”‘.