Launch Slideshow

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A Skyspace in Houston

A Skyspace in Houston

  • Turrells enclosure can be entered by two aligned portals that recall the similar incision-into-hillside detail at the Tomb of Agamemnon in Mycenae.

    http://www.residentialarchitect.com/Images/tmp363B%2Etmp_tcm48-1398649.jpg

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    Turrells enclosure can be entered by two aligned portals that recall the similar incision-into-hillside detail at the Tomb of Agamemnon in Mycenae.

    600

    Ian Allen

    Turrell’s enclosure can be entered by two aligned portals that recall the similar incision-into-hillside detail at the Tomb of Agamemnon in Mycenae.

  • Turrells skyspace for Rice is the first to be engineered for acoustics, with 12 speakers built into the structures plaster walls to facilitate performances by students from the universitys Shepherd School of Music and Rice Electroacoustic Music Labs. The spaces two viewing levels could serve as listening stations for sound installations or other kinds of auditory performances.

    http://www.residentialarchitect.com/Images/tmp363C%2Etmp_tcm48-1398655.jpg

    true

    Turrells skyspace for Rice is the first to be engineered for acoustics, with 12 speakers built into the structures plaster walls to facilitate performances by students from the universitys Shepherd School of Music and Rice Electroacoustic Music Labs. The spaces two viewing levels could serve as listening stations for sound installations or other kinds of auditory performances.

    600

    Ian Allen

    Turrell’s skyspace for Rice is the first to be engineered for acoustics, with 12 speakers built into the structure’s plaster walls to facilitate performances by students from the university’s Shepherd School of Music and Rice Electroacoustic Music Labs. The space’s two viewing levels could serve as listening stations for sound installations or other kinds of auditory performances.

  • The 7-foot-wide channel at the top of the berm walls affords dramatic views of the skylight and Rices campus. The pew-like seating in the upper viewing area has the feel of balcony seating in a theater. And even though the upper deck stands at just 9 feet above grade, the view from about 14 feet above grade is theatrical for the superflat Houston landscape.

    http://www.residentialarchitect.com/Images/tmp363D%2Etmp_tcm48-1398659.jpg

    true

    The 7-foot-wide channel at the top of the berm walls affords dramatic views of the skylight and Rices campus. The pew-like seating in the upper viewing area has the feel of balcony seating in a theater. And even though the upper deck stands at just 9 feet above grade, the view from about 14 feet above grade is theatrical for the superflat Houston landscape.

    600

    Ian Allen

    The 7-foot-wide channel at the top of the berm walls affords dramatic views of the skylight and Rice’s campus. The pew-like seating in the upper viewing area has the feel of balcony seating in a theater. And even though the upper deck stands at just 9 feet above grade, the view from about 14 feet above grade is theatrical for the superflat Houston landscape.

  • The skyspace at Rice features programmed light shows twice per day--at dawn and dusk.

    http://www.residentialarchitect.com/Images/tmp363E%2Etmp_tcm48-1398661.jpg

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    The skyspace at Rice features programmed light shows twice per day--at dawn and dusk.

    600

    Ian Allen

    The skyspace at Rice features programmed light shows twice per day—at dawn and dusk.

  • The skyspace at Rice features programmed light shows twice per day--at dawn and dusk.

    http://www.residentialarchitect.com/Images/tmp363F%2Etmp_tcm48-1398667.jpg

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    The skyspace at Rice features programmed light shows twice per day--at dawn and dusk.

    600

    Ian Allen

    The skyspace at Rice features programmed light shows twice per day—at dawn and dusk.

  • The skyspace at Rice features programmed light shows twice per day--at dawn and dusk.

    http://www.residentialarchitect.com/Images/tmp3640%2Etmp_tcm48-1398673.jpg

    true

    The skyspace at Rice features programmed light shows twice per day--at dawn and dusk.

    600

    Ian Allen

    The skyspace at Rice features programmed light shows twice per day—at dawn and dusk.

  • The skyspace at Rice features programmed light shows twice per day--at dawn and dusk.

    http://www.residentialarchitect.com/Images/tmp3641%2Etmp_tcm48-1398678.jpg

    true

    The skyspace at Rice features programmed light shows twice per day--at dawn and dusk.

    600

    Ian Allen

    The skyspace at Rice features programmed light shows twice per day—at dawn and dusk.

Turrell’s enclosure can be entered by two aligned portals that recall the similar incision-into-hillside detail at the Tomb of Agamemnon in Mycenae—by way of Philip Johnson’s reinterpretation of that ancient archetype for his semi-subterranean art gallery in New Canaan, Conn. Turrell’s portals are flanked by narrow staircases leading to the parapet-level seating, their framing walls as well as a broad, lintel-like panel all rendered in the same clean white stucco as the atrium interior and canopy underside. The result is rigorous. But it is also—for an artifact that, through its skylight, wrestles to ground an infinite axis mundi between heaven and earth—exceedingly well mannered.

Some architectural observers might like to see all those cosmic forces wrapped up a little less neatly. The tidy combination of tasteful white-walled modernism and structural bravura recalls Berthold Lubetkin’s 1934 Penguin House for the London Zoo—and like that magnificent folly, Turrell’s structure has a strident profile, a presence that sometimes risks the object becoming a monument to the visual experience for which it is merely the means.

And yet, at dusk and dawn, such contentions fade. Perhaps the structure’s most brilliant gesture is in deploying that vanishingly fine edge around not only its central skylight, but also around the canopy’s outside circumference. By meeting the outer world exactly as it meets the world within, the artwork stages a generous and startling inversion of public and private, sacred and profane, high and low. It’s a turning-inside-out that, all along that razor’s edge, somehow turns all the sky into a skylight, somehow shelters its entire expanse—enlisting and transforming, to its furthest horizon, all of that low-lying landscape into high-flying art.