James Turrell Just Debuted a Brand-New ‘Skyspace’ Near Bergen, Norway, to Give Viewers a Fresh Lens on the Majesty of the Scandinavian Sky

A collaboration with architecture firm A-Works, 'Hardanger Skyspace' is the 82nd iteration of its kind.

James Turrell, 'Hardanger Skyspace' (2022), interior view. Courtesy A-Works.

An avid pilot who considers the sky his studio, James Turrell has shaped much of his career around the ethereal matter of light, air, and space. Works like the ambitious Roden Crater in Arizona challenge the limits of human perception on a grand scale.

Arguably the renowned American artist’s most significant contribution has been the innumerable “Skyspace” installations he’s conceived and realized throughout the world. Whether carved out of a museum’s architectural volume—like New York’s MoMA PS1—or staged as a pavilion, these enclosed environments all feature open roofs carefully framing the heavens above. Visitors are invited to enter and sit for a while to experience changes in color and cosmic movement. The meditative process helps them find grounding and reconnect with nature in unexpected ways.

Conceived with the technical expertise of architecture practice A-Works, Hardanger Skyspace is the 82nd iteration of its kind. The monolithic pavilion was commissioned by the village of Øystese, nearby Kunsthuset Kabuso, and Voss Folk Museum to sit in a park along the Hardanger Fjord and Hardangervidda mountain plateau. The northernmost Skyspace to date, this latest installation interacts with acute seasonal fluctuations. Turrell was careful to position the piece so that it could best engage the dramatic setting.

Exterior of Hardanger Skyspace (2022). Courtesy of A-Works.

A-Works principal Cristian Stefanescu played an integral role in designing the permanent structure, achieving the artist’s mission while also reflecting various contextual touchpoints. A specific strain of slate sourced in the region was selected to evoke the shiplap siding of a nearby church. From a distance, Turrell’s sculpture of sorts resembles this building but, on closer inspection, proportions skew and the work emerges as a much taller stacked-stone totem. Choosing the right coloration was essential to creating this illusion. 

“The whole work of art functions as a precise perception of light as a physical presence,” explained Stefanescu. The devil was in the details as he and Turrell envisioned a space that not only outlines the sky but also takes on specific material and formal qualities itself. Measured down to the millimeter, prefabricated concrete components were meticulously fitted into place. These considerations were vital to the overall concept.

The construction of Hardanger Skyspace. Courtesy of A-Works.

“The poetic is often known as a bohemian idea, something that just comes to you. I reject this idea,” added Stefanescu. “Something that is precise but appears imprecise involves a high degree of precision and knowledge of technical processes, pigmentation, prototyping, and art of thinking. Creating atmosphere is a ‘hard-core’ technical knowledge.”

The octagonal enclosure can only be entered through a door that becomes apparent once visitors have reached the end of a dedicated pathway. An unexpected white oval-shaped interior shuts off from the immediate surroundings. Curved benches blend in seamlessly with the cast concrete walls to accentuate the contours of the aperture above. As Hardanger Skyspace gains purpose through activation, the shifting patterns of natural light are brought to the fore.

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