Skyspace shifts color perceptions
Published: Friday, September 7, 2012
Updated: Friday, September 7, 2012 22:09
James Turrell’s “Twilight Epiphany” Skyspace blends arts and leisure flawlessly. The Skyspace, also referred to as the Suzanne Deal Booth Centennial Pavilion after the patron and principal benefactor, is a place to relax, reflect and appreciate the juxtaposition of nature and man-made aesthetics. Since its opening in June, the Skyspace has drawn curious visitors from not only Rice but all over Houston.
“I have seen a couple other works by Turrell, but this is by far his most involved piece yet,” local artist Sandra Bissex said.
Standing in front of the Shepherd School of Music, the grass-covered, pyramid-shaped Skyspace has a bold visual presence, but is a puzzling functional installation. The two story interior is a combination of concrete, stone and composite steel and holds 120 people. The Skyspace is acoustically engineered for musical performances. The plaster walls allow the permeation of sound since speakers are hidden below the surface. The building also contains a laboratory for Shepherd music students to compose, practice and perform in.
The central attraction of the Skyspace occurs only at sunrise and sunset: the light show. LED lights shine onto the ceiling and through the 72-square-foot opening in the roof. The lights change color to compliment the shifting hues of the sky at both sunrise and sunset. The LED lights are planned in such a sequence that though the sky outside may be one color, the view of it from inside the Skyspace is completely different. Viewers sitting on the tilted concrete benches watch as the sky gradually transitions from baby blue to slate gray to pitch black. The light sequence lasts for about 40 minutes and guests are free to come and go as they please. It is a distinct show – something viewers have most likely never seen before. The whole experience is tranquil and conducive to reflective thought.
Through the Skyspace show, visitors are able to sit back and appreciate the beauty of strictly the sky, devoid of the shadows of buildings or the silhouettes of tree branches.
“I had never seen the sky from that perspective before,” Lovett College freshman
Tyler Taldone said.
The best seat in the house is in fact not a seat, but the floor directly below the open roof. I laid down on the floor to watch the sky turn dark, accented by the LED lights in my periphery. Just like Claude Monet’s “Haystacks,” each light show is a distinct work of art, dependent on time and space. The sunrise show lets viewers see the sky coming into light (and is significantly less crowded) while the sunset show displays the retreat of the sun. Public musical performances, listed on the website at rice.skyspace.edu, are scheduled throughout the year, and the Skyspace is available to be rented out for private parties and events. There will also be several events held in the space during the Centennial Celebration.
“We want students to come and appreciate the gift that this piece of art is,” Skyspace manager Emily Stein said.