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ASU lands a Turrell Skyspace

Anything with the James Turrell stamp on it usually gets my attention. Turrell is famous for perhaps the most ongoing of ongoing projects: the Roden Crater near Flagstaff, which eventually will open to the public as an observatory reached by tunnels. The configuration of light and space through the tunnels will open up the night skies in a new way to the naked eye. The project began in the early 1980s.

Turrell also is known for an international series of Skyspaces, which are usually designed as square-shaped meeting places in which participants can gaze at the sky through an opening in the ceiling. And now, Arizona State University is lucky enough to have one, near Rural Road and Terrace in the Diane and Bruce Halle Garden. It’s called “Air Apparent,” and it opened in October 2012.

Not only is it a Turrell, but it is also a Will Bruder, another name that gets my attention, as Bruder is the progressive architect behind the Burton Barr Central Library and many other notable projects. His team built the structure under Turrell’s guidance.

The mesh, steel and concrete building is meant to resemble a Hohokam pit house or ramada, Bruder said in an ASU media release. ASU officials say viewing the Skyspace at dusk or dawn adds a new dimension, as color-changing LED lights along the ceiling line play with your perception of color, light and space. Incidentally, the space is accessible any time of the day or night.

Turrell once told a magazine, “I feel my work is made for one being, one individual,” and thus a work like a Skyspace seems perfect for long and solitary contemplation. Wouldn’t any college campus be a good fit for a Skyspace? At ASU, it’s easy walking distance from the law library, the Biodesign Institute and the new Interdisciplinary Science and Technology Building 4 — all hallowed places for deep thinkers.

The day I visited the Skyspace, the only student seemingly wrapped in study was sitting outside the entrance to the Skyspace, even though the space itself was quiet, the black granite benches were pristine, and the ceiling was letting in a beautiful balmy day.

I’m sure that in time, many more in the ASU community will migrate to the Skyspace in times of needed solitude.

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