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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 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 inside and outside the chamber, shift colors to affect the viewer's perception of the sky. Based on the science of how humans perceive light, the individual experience is the actual work itself.  Leading also features a daytime, closed roof program, during which the convexed dome shifts color in tandem with interior lighting. The seating capacity of Leading is 22 views at one time.

What is a Skyspace?
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James Turrell 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, Bo invited James to Friends to discuss the possibility of an art installation as a capstone to the School's historic Campus Redevelopment Project that was about to be undertaken. 

Bo recalls: "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."

James and Friends




Early Sketch of Leading by James Turrell

The chamber, measuring 19’ x 22’ x 24’, is sited on the School’s roof near the Greenhouse. The elegant, yet simple, design echoes the aesthetic of the Fifteenth Street Meetinghouse, inviting a metaphorical dialogue between the two spiritual spaces on campus. The architect of record for the Skyspace is Kliment Halsband Architects.

Design of Leading

Aerial of Skyspace with Roof Open

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Interior View of Skyspace from Above


Looking Skyward


Renderings by Kliment Halsband Architects

Roof Open

The Skyspace is an extension of the School's Quaker mission.

Leading as a Community Space



James Turrell often refers to the influence of Quakerism on his life and practice. 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 is not only be a work of art, but also a place of silence and contemplation.

The Skyspace is open to Friends community members throughout the school day for drop-ins, and teachers can also reserve the space as a classroom. From writing and reading to drawing to yoga to reflection, the Skyspace provides a unique environment for students and teachers to work within.  The Skyspace is also utilized weekly by students, faculty and staff for meditation sessions.

As Leading is a gift to Friends, it is also a gift to the city that surrounds it.  Classes from neighboring schools are encouraged to visit. Inquiries to arrange a class visit can be sent to Additionally, the Skyspace is open on a select day each month for the general public to visit. Click here to learn more.

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