Skyspace Opens

According to Newswise, "The University of Illinois at Chicago has completed construction of the first fully public 'skyspace' elliptical structure 26 feet high and 43 feet in diameter, supported by columns and lined with arc-shaped benches. An oculus in the roof is calculated to frame the sky and shifting light levels."

Back in February, Edward Lifson rightly questioned the openness and location of the skyspace, in terms of traffic noise at the busy intersection interrupting the meditative nature of the installation. Apparently this concern has been addressed, since in warm months "curtains of water will fall continuously between alternating pairs of the support columns to soften the sound and sight of traffic and pedestrian activity."

Missing image - halsted-skyscape1.jpg
Photo by Robert Dupuis Devlin, UIC

My concern has more to do with the visual distractions that arise from having the sides being open, a condition made for obvious security reasons. Most of Turrell's skyspaces are immersive environments, meant to close off the visitor from all surroundings but the sky. In this case, the visitor will probably see movement and light in the periphery even while looking up at the sky. This makes any meditative experience difficult if not impossible, though the water should cut down on this distraction a little bit.

Missing image - halsted-skyscape2.jpg
Photo by Robert Dupuis Devlin, UIC

My other concern is regarding the elliptical oculus. Most openings in these installations tend to be square, with the occasional circle. I think the square openings are easier to construct than circular openings and much easier to construct than elliptical openings, meaning that the viewer might be distracted by things like curves not be tangent, as in the image below.

Missing image - halsted-skyscape3.jpg
Photo by Edward Lifson

Regardless, Turrell's skyspaces are meant to be experienced. Their power to affect our senses cannot be conveyed in photographs (as much as I've tried). So over the weekend I'll have to visit the new skyspace and see for myself how well it works or doesn't.

In further Turrell news, another one of his skyspaces recently opened in the Yorkshire Sculpture Park. Read about it here and here.


  1. I heard that they also relocated it after it became apparent a nearby church steeple would be visible through the oculus.

  2. Yep, that delayed the completion date for quite a while...years.

  3. Hello John,
    Nice post as usual. I loved your post on the Crate and Barrel on Michigan Avenue, with the diagonal pointing at the John Hancock.

    Re: the Skyspace. I was there again last Wednesday, leading a very interesting group from the Chicago Architecture Foundation. The water curtain was on.

    Yes, the water does "soften the sound and sight of traffic and pedestrian activity," as claimed on that PR Newswire.

    But it does not "drown out" the noise and chaos enough. I still find it quite difficult to lose myself in contemplation in that place.

    Most of those on the tour agreed.

    It's wonderful that UIC brought a Turrell to Chicago; it is indeed very public, and everyone should go see it (and the new Vito Acconci work on the UIC campus) - one might have a moving experience there.

    But imho, the best place in the world to experience a Turrell Skyspace is not the corner of Roosevelt and Halsted Streets.

  4. Just had to comment on your assertion, "In further Turrell news, another one of his skyspaces recently opened in London's Yorkshire Sculpture Park". I know the UK is comparatively small, and that London is the only important bit of it, but Yorkshire is distinctly not in London, being several hundred miles north...

    Interesting post - as usual - though. I hadn't come across Turrell's work before. Thanks!

  5. fiona - Thanks for the correction. I fixed the post, though I shoulda checked my facts before actually posting it.

  6. the seattle skyspace looks a little more interesting architecturally the elliptical occulus works actually...its exquisite

  7. more info about Acconci's work at UIC please?

  8. jason - Afraid I'm not familiar with the Acconci work at UIC.

  9. you can see acconci's work on the west side of university hall. it's a "trellis" of sorts that looks like it will create a foliage cavern


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