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JAMES TURRELL - Light, Space, Sound

Updated: Jan 19, 2023

The world stands still in the unique spaces designed by James Turrell. Experience the powerful, yet calm combination of light, space and sound. These can be found in and close to Switzerland.

A Corner Shallow Space by James Turrell @Art Basel Unlimited 2018

Corner Shallow Space by James Turrell at Art Basel 2018

Most people might have encountered James Turrell's light in some form. For example, in the "Hotline Bling" music video by Drake, or at the Art Basel Unlimited show, where his "Corner Shallow Space" captivated its visitors.

Permanently accessible installations can be found in Zurich and Zug. James Turrell's colors illuminate the Zug train station by night. During guided tours organized by Zug Tourismus, one can learn more about the history, architecture and impressive lights. The Zurich children's hospital provides its patients and their visitors with «My Light» a special oasis of tranquility. During selected hours, the space is open for the public. But this is only the start of James Turrell's work in Zurich. In 2024, with the opening of the new children's hospital designed by Herzog & de Meuron, a new Skyspace will come to Switzerland.

My Light at the children's hospital in Zurich

At those Skyspaces, artificial and natural light create unique color perceptions and provide a place of tranquility. This can be experienced at the Sky Pesher at the Walker Art Center Minneapolis, where one can peacefully meditate inside and observe the sky, while the highway flies past. Due to the sharp frame around the hole in the roof, the sky seems surreal and plastic, as if it was a blue form projected to the ceiling. But as soon as a raindrop falls down, or a cloud floats above, it becomes evident, that the space is open and that the form is actually the sky.

Skyspaces at the Hotel Castell Zuoz and Walker Art Center Minneapolis

One of those Skyspaces can be visited in the beautiful Engadin valley in Switzerland. The cylindrical "Piz Uter" peeks out next to the Hotel Castell in Zuoz, in contrast to the traditional Engadin architecture. For those who want to experience a larger space, the Skyspace Lech across the Austrian border provides the perfect destination. This Skyspace is located even further away from civilization and surrounded by a scenic panorama.

View on the Skyspace Lech

One hour before sunrise and at sunset, one can experience James Turrell's stunning light show at the Skyspace. The white ceiling is illuminated with slowly changing colors. As the sky transitions from night to dawn or golden hour to starry sky, one can experience different color sets, which allows one to meditate for 45 minutes without realizing how time passes.

Inside the Skyspace Lech

As if the lights weren't enough to take in, the sound makes for an unforgettable experience. Who's lucky, might encounter an Alphorn player, who is tuning his instrument, as in the following video at Piz Uter.

Alphorn player at Skyspace Piz Uter in Zuoz

Moreover, Kanye West discovered the magic of James Turrell's spaces and had «Jesus is King» his Sunday Service choir filmed in it. Of course he didn't just choose some Skyspace, but James Turrell's largest project, the Roden Crater. It is located in a volcanic field in the desert of Arizona and is still in construction. Through the movie, Kanye opens his gospel music and the access to the Roden Crater to a larger audience. The movie was until recently shown at IMAX cinemas for a stiff price of 25 Swiss francs. One can only hope, that the revenue facilitates the finalization of the Roden Crater, so that the public can experience it.

Already accessible for free are the above mentioned Skyspaces.


James Turrell

1943 born in Los Angeles

studied maths, psychology and art

experiments with light since the sixties

works and lives in Arizona

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