Turrell Groundbreaking

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Rice University breaks ground on skyspace by artist James Turrell

Rice News staff

Rice University held an official groundbreaking ceremony Tuesday afternoon for a skyspace, a major installation by celebrated artist James Turrell. An experiential structure that fuses light and space, the work will be a centerpiece of Rice's public art program. Construction will last through November and opening dates will be announced in late fall.



Rice alumna Suzanne Deal Booth's multimillion-dollar gift allowed the university to commission the artwork, which will stand in the green space between Rice's Shepherd School of Music and the Jesse H. Jones Graduate School of Business.

Deal Booth '77 told the audience she was thrilled the site has been conceived as a public art space and hopes it will attract a steady stream of visitors from Rice, Houston and beyond. "I fully believe that art, rather than being contained, restrained and rarified, can be about discovering the special and the sublime in our everyday lives," she said.

"Over the last century," said Rice Board of Trustees Chairman James Crownover '65, "Rice has been blessed to have attracted so many visionaries, who with like-minded people and interests, have propelled Rice in new directions, adding to the distinctiveness of Rice and broadening the appeal of Rice. In so many ways, Suzanne Deal Booth is one of those visionaries."



The skyspace, featuring a pyramidal grass berm 100 feet square and a 72-foot-square floating canopy roof, will be an immense structure capable of accommodating almost 150 people. It will include seating for 44 people in the ground-floor chamber, which is acoustically equipped for musical performances and laboratory space for music school students. Visitors will see an LED light show at sunrise and sunset reflecting around the uncovered roof aperture, which will be open to the sky.

“The installation will complement the natural light present at sunrise and sunset, and transform the James Turrell skyspace into a locale for contemplation and reflective interaction with the rest of the campus and the natural world,” said Rice Art Director Molly Hipp Hubbard. “It will serve as the anchor for Rice’s public artworks at the west end of campus and draw people to Rice to enjoy the many other works we have added over the past couple of years.”

President David Leebron said he doubts that any piece of art on a university campus embodies the aspirations of a university as well as the Turrell skyspace will.

"It's not just about on piece of art," Leebron said Tuesday. "It's about a renewed philosophy of what this campus should look like."

The skyspace will be one of only three Turrell installations in Houston: the Live Oak Meeting House for the Society of Friends and "The Light Inside" at the Museum of Fine Arts Houston are the other two. He said he doubted any piece of art on a university campus embodies the aspirations of a university as well as the Turrell skyspace will.

For more information on the skyspace project and artist James Turrell, click here.