James Turrell Skyspace Piz Uter, Zuoz

    Services of OAP
  • Creating project drawings according to the sketches and other Details of the artist for the building application
  • Create a detailed project Beschriebes according to the ideas of the artist
  • Preparation of detailed project drawings.
  • Implementation planning
  • Construction site supervision / quality assurance
  • Coordination with / information on artists

For several years, OAP has had the pleasure to work with James Turrell, one of the most renowned light artist of our time. The perception of light and space are recurring themes in Turrell's work, which he, inter alia, experiences through flying; the artist has a pilot's license since he was 16 years working as a courier flight and cartographer before studying art.

2005 OAP is mandated by the Walter A. Bechtler Foundation to develop together with the artist the project of a "Skyspace" next to the Hotel Castell, Zuoz in the Upper Engadin in Switzerland. Building permit and implementation plans are to be drawn up in close consultation with Turell and the technical construction work is to be developed with the building contractor.

In an exciting collaboration with the artist, OAP designed the architectural implementation of his ideas and intended effects. Working also with trusted lighting and illumination specialists familiar with Turrell's work, the construction and light technical feasibility of the project was constantly clarified during the process. Although the "Skyspaces" represent a series of similar artworks in the artist's oeuvre, each of them is unique - marked by its geometric shape and especially the individual geographic location.

This project is a prime example of how important adequate design and detailing is for the intended effect. In the "Skyspace" physiological perception and built reality come together in mutual respect. Design and construction have to allow for the specific climatic conditions of the Engadin at almost 2000m height above sea level and at the same time give form to the artist's intentioned perception. This is achieved ultimately only by a sophisticated and high-precision structural design, both in terms of geometry, as well as the terms of materialization.

Standing on the mountainside near the Hotel Castel the "Skyspace" is the archaic-looking cylindrical structure built with Dry Stone Masonry as external wall. The only openings in the building are the entrance directed towards the valley as well as the centralized large round ceiling opening. The orientation of the entrance was defined by Turrell himself directing it towards the summit plateau of the mountain Piz Uter. Its distinctive peak shape is traced by the outline of the entrance.

In its executed basic geometric shape this work belongs to the so called "Autonomous Structures" of Turrell's "Skyspaces". These are self-contained bodies of similar design principles, consisting of one room with an opening in the ceiling, corresponding to the respective floor plan of the building. A bench runs along the wall, the inclined position directs the viewer's gaze involuntarily upwards to the opening and into the sky. The ceiling openings are formed so that the eye neither reveals nor can detect material thicknesses. This creates a two-dimensional effect and the sky appears as a painting. With additionally installed lights which start to operate at the onset of dusk, this painting expands all over the room in ever-changing colour combinations.

"The Skyspace Piz Uter is a highly poetic contribution to daylighting. The installation shows the essence of light and space in an unrivaled consequence. The question of whether this is a work of art or architecture, is for the jury therefore not relevant. "James Turrell receives 2010 on the occasion of the Velux Daylight Award a recognition award.

James Turell, Flagstaff, Arizona
OAP Architektur & Projekte, Zürich
Erich Offermann, Birgit Schneider
Lighting and Electrical Planning:
Die Lichtplaner, Limburg Staffel
Supporting structure:
Edy Toscano AG, Pontresina /Gr

Walter A. Bechtler-Stiftung, Zürich, Rudolf Bechtler
Cultural Management:
Häusler Kulturmanagement GmbH, München
Reference person:
Wolfgang Häusler, Häusler Contemporary, München

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