No.6 / Top 10 lighting experiences: The Roden Crater, Arizona

April 06 2011 — by Jonathan Speirs
Turning into James Turrell’s life work, the Roden Crater is located a few miles from Flagstaff in Arizona; it's best to Google Earth it to appreciate its size and location. It is a 400,000-year-old, three-mile-diameter crater. Turrell has been sculpting the inner core of the crater into a massive naked-eye observatory. He is focussing on viewing sky-light, solar and celestial aspects of our skies.

James Turrell at the Roden Crater, Arizona. Photo: Florian Holzherr

Turrell purchased the Crater in 1979 and has been working on it as funds become available since then. Apparently one of the carved out spaces in the floor of the Crater has a tube that is focussed on particular star and Turrell has been quoted as saying therefore that the light arriving in the chamber is “older than the earth itself”.

I, like many others, have tried calling in favours to get some kind of access even though it is not completely finished but unless you have already commissioned Turrell or helped on the Crater or are a high level art critic or commissioning body we will all have to wait for access. Reputedly opening to the public sometime in 2011, although worryingly no firm date has been announced – so I am still hopeful it will happen for me.

Check out existing images on either Google Images or Flickr to get a flavour and appreciation of the scale of the endeavour. I take my smaller hat off to you, Mr Turrell. I predict it will become one of the most talked about and visited pieces of contemporary land art in the world, perhaps even become a wonder of the modern world.

Jonathan Speirs