James Turrell is a master of light and space who creates engaging works of art that push the limits and wonder of human perception. His work is inspired Plato’s notion that we are living in a reality of our own creation, subject to our human sensory limitations as well as contextual and cultural norms. Each of his installations activates a heightened sensory awareness intended to promote discovery and wonderment.¹
At MASS MoCA, Bruner/Cott worked with artist James Turrell to transform a disused water tower into a Turrell “Skyspace.” Since the 1970s, James Turrell has been creating large, enclosed spaces that allow visitors to sit on benches or lie on the floor, gazing upward through an aperture in the roof, creating a “celestial viewing room design[ed] to create the rather magical illusion that the sky is within reach – stretched like a canvas across an opening in the ceiling.”²
This Skyspace is one with MoCA’s campus while creating the celestial connections that typify Turrell’s works. Working with the artist as well as design-build fabricators, Bruner/Cott designed those elements which transform the water tower and engage tactilely with the visitor—including the siting, restoration, and re-roofing of the water tower as well as the monumental pre-cast concrete and stone benches which emerge from a concrete and stone floor.
It is the largest round Skyspace in the northern hemisphere, joining 87 other Skyspaces in the world, and is one of a few that feature a cover, providing an additional experience with the art while protecting the space from the elements.
This project builds on the work previously done at Building 6, where Bruner/Cott was the architect for the renovation as well as the executive architect for 9 James Turrell pieces. Bruner/Cott detailed the water tower space and provided executive architect services for the Skyspace while working with an Australian design-build firm—DCG—that is fabricating the complex fiberglass shapes and structure, including the integration of mechanized cover. DCG provides additional expertise gained from their work on Turrell’s Roden Crater installation in Arizona.
With the addition of the Skyspace, MASS MoCA now has a piece from every major period of James Turrell’s work.
Photos: (c) James Turrell Photo: Florian Holzherr
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