In the 1970s, James Turrell moved to Flagstaff, Arizona to begin work on the Roden Crater project, extending his explorations of light and space from the studio to the landscape. Roden Crater, an extinct volcanic cinder cone in Arizona near the Painted Desert and Grand Canyon, is being transformed by Turrell into a monumental work of art and celestial observatory. When complete, the Roden Crater project will contain more than 20 spaces designed for particular moments of light from the sky and link visitors with the movements of the celestial bodies. Located in the high desert northeast of Flagstaff, the relative remoteness of Roden Crater will require a journey and a commitment of time on the part of visitors, deepening the experience of discovery.
At Roden Crater I was interested in taking the cultural artifice of art out into the natural surround. I did not want the work to be a mark upon nature, but I wanted the work to be enfolded in nature in such a way that light from the sun, moon and stars empowered the spaces. ...I wanted an area where you had a sense of standing on the planet. I wanted an area of exposed geology like the Grand Canyon or the Painted Desert, where you could feel geologic time. Then in this stage set of geologic time, I wanted to make spaces that engaged celestial events in light so that the spaces performed a ‘music of the spheres’ in light. The sequence of spaces, leading up to the final large space at the top of the crater, magnifies events. The work I do intensifies the experience of light by isolating it and occluding light from events not looked at. I have selected different portions of the sky and a limited number of events for each of the spaces. This is a reason for the large number of spaces.
James Turrell’s detailed design for the spaces and passageways of Roden Crater is finished. Six spaces have been built, including two of the most difficult, the shaping of the Crater Bowl and the 900 foot long Alpha (East) tunnel. Three spaces, the Sun/Moon Chamber, Upper East Tunnel Portal, and the Crater’s Eye Chamber, are joined by the Alpha Tunnel and a connecting tunnel to the Crater Bowl. for future visitors and offers a panoramic view of the Painted Desert and adjacent cinder cones in northern Arizona’s San Francisco Volcanic Zone. In the arid desert climate, it is highly likely that the structures and spaces of Roden Crater will continue to gather light from the sky for a thousand years or more.
Reference: Extraordinary Ideas – Realized | Zumtobel Group Annual Report 2014/15 by James Turrell