Transformative Turrell

James Turrell's Rice Skyspace

Catherine D. Anspon
May 07, 2012

Talk about a 100th anniversary gift. Rice University’s Centennial Campaign — which culminates with this fall’s homecoming — got an early present of appreciation from alumna Suzanne Deal Booth that we predict will become a major art pilgrimage site. Get set for a big reveal next month along the creative corridor that intersects the campus’ orchestral and commerce buildings. Sited between the much lauded Shepherd School of Music and the Jesse H. Jones Graduate School of Business, the expected-to-be breathtaking new James Turrell Skyspace will stand guard west of the main quadrangle, at the heart of the university, visible from the Texas Medical Center and adjoining residential high-rises. Featuring a 14-by-14-foot rectangular oculus, and with salient components a grassy berm over which floats an elevated, 72-by-72-foot roof, the futuristic concrete, stone and steel open-air creation promises a transformative experience. An LED light show amplifies the ethereal nature of this Turrell, which is reportedly the only skyspace in the world acoustically engineered for musical performances; it also serves as a lab for Shepherd School students and accommodates 150 people. The striking, other-worldly commission —  enjoyed to greatest effect at dawn and dusk — brings Houston’s tally of Turrells to three, including the handsome, well-trafficked MFAH Law-to-Beck light tunnel and the serene Skyspace at the Live Oak Friends Meeting House. FYI: The MFAH is co-curating a major Turrell retrospective, slated for 2013, that will cast additional international attention on the Arizona-based artist and undoubtedly highlight our bevy of sight-specific offerings by this incomparable maestro of light and space. For an update of the Rice Skyspace opening date, peruse

IMAGE:  James Turrell’s Skyspace at Rice University, unveiling June 2012. Photo courtesy Thomas Phifer and Partners.