JAMES TURRELL

SKYSPACE

AT FRIENDS SEMINARY

  COMING IN 2023  

Designed and donated by Quaker James Turrell, an American artist, this installation will be the capstone of the School's five-year Campus Redevelopment Project, and will be located on the roof of the School's 16th Street campus.

With completion expected in early 2023, this work of art will be the only public Skyspace in Manhattan and will be the first one attached to a K-12 school anywhere. At Friends, it will also serve as a spiritual and educational space for our community.

(BACKGROUND)  Early Sketch of Friends Skyspace Design, 2014. © James Turrell.

Light is not so much something that reveals, as it is itself a revelation.

James Turrell

 
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(LEFT)  One Accord, 2000.

Live Oak Friends Meeting, Houston
© James Turrell. Photo: Lynne Lane

Turrell’s Skyspaces are specifically proportioned chambers where viewers have a unique and personal experience of the sky through a knife-edged aperture in the roof. A softly lit interior combined with the changing light of the sky above, provides a dramatic experience for the viewer—especially at dawn and dusk. Benches line the perimeter of the enclosed space, allowing observers to look at the sky in such a way as though it were framed. LED lights which surround the aperture can change colors to affect the viewer's perception of the sky.

 

DESIGN OF THE SKYSPACE

AT FRIENDS SEMINARY

The chamber, measuring 19’ x 22’ x 24’, will be sited on the School’s roof near the Greenhouse. The elegant, yet simple, design will echo the aesthetic of the Fifteenth Street Meetinghouse, inviting a metaphorical dialogue between the two spiritual spaces on campus.

SKYSPACE RENDERINGS

Click to enlarge.

Roof Open
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The Skyspace will be an extension of the School's Quaker mission.

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(LEFT)  The Color Beneath, 2013.

Ekebergparken Sculpture Park, Oslo
© James Turrell. Photo: Ivar Kvaal

James Turrell often refers to the influence of Quakerism on his life and practice. Quakers believe that there is “the Inner Light” in all people. While in contemplative meeting, he imagined a roof opening, like a convertible. He uses light as a metaphor for life, for the spiritual essence that is shared by all people. In keeping with Quaker testimonies and Friends Seminary’s own mission, the Skyspace will not only be a work of art, but also a place of silence and contemplation.

James and Friends Seminary

 

James Turrell, based in Arizona, previously lived in New York City’s Gramercy Park neighborhood, near to Friends Seminary and worshiped at the Fifteenth Street Meetinghouse. In 2007, he delivered the School's annual Peace Week Lecture, and spoke about attaining peace through environmental justice and equity. 

 

During this period, James and Head of School Bo Lauder developed a friendly relationship, and this was a foundational moment for the Skyspace. In 2013 the members of the School’s Administrative Committee visited Turrell’s legendary installation in the rotunda at the Guggenheim Museum, which was another important moment in the journey of the Friends Skyspace. 

In 2014, seeking to enrich the School’s Quaker mission, with the encouragement and support of several parents involved in the art world, Bo invited James to Friends to discuss the possibility of an art installation. Bo envisioned something that would be a capstone to the historic Campus Redevelopment Project that was about to be undertaken. 

Bo Lauder recalls, “I was anticipating an interior light installation but the moment James arrived he said, 'Take me to the roof!'  Once he saw the unobstructed view of the sky above our buildings, the vision for the Friends Seminary Skyspace began. I am grateful to the special group of parents for their steadfast enthusiasm and passion for making James Turrell’s brilliant work accessible to our students, community and city.”

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(ABOVE)  Portrait of James Turrell by Florian Holzherr.