Spirit of Light, aka Espíritu de Luz, is one of the many Skyspaces that the Light & Space artist James Turrell is famous for. An architectural installation in which light becomes the object of the viewer’s experience. Visitors observe the sky above through an aperture in the roof. Artificial lighting augments natural light, influencing the perception of light and space. And it’s this interplay of light, particularly the artificial light, that, in the case of Espíritu de Luz, gives the building its wow factor and makes it “disappear.”
The building takes the form of an upside-down funnel, which isn’t too unusual; however, during opening hours, the exhibition’s lighting transforms the structure into something more peculiar.
The entrance corridors on either side of the building have an aeronautical feel, given that they increase in height as they recede into the main space, like the wings of an aircraft that widen as they meet the central fuselage. And the neon lighting that lines these passageways gives the building a subtle, hovering effect and infuses reflections on the glass doors with cosmic colors and abstract patterns.
The building’s conical shape extends into the ground, assimilating the structure covered in grass with the surroundings, resembling a vessel that has crash landed in the jungle. This lets visitors freely walk up the building’s inclined grassy surface—the roof essentially—from the ground until they reach the aperture at the top, which glows like the halo ring of a UFO.
This illuminated circular opening frames visitors inside like earthlings aboard an alien spaceship. Daylight floods the space below like a tractor beam that draws observers into the experience.
Inside the observatory, the artificial lights interplay with the natural light animating the walls in elliptical forms. For some, perhaps the sci-fi enthusiast, they could be construed as symbols, a form of visual communication from the worlds above. However, Turrel and his team didn’t design these animated displays of light to communicate any particular message but to draw the observer deeper into the experience.
Immersion is the purpose of this exhibition—immersion with light and through light. The perspective of light is the object of exhibition, so much so that everything else, including the building itself, disappears, and the observer becomes at one with the light.
Know Before You Go
For a more in-depth explanation of the building is designed to “disappear” in the presence of light, hear from James Turrel himself in this video.
The Espíritu de Luz exhibition is open at dawn and dusk, at approximately 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. when the natural light delivers the best experience. Reservations can be made on the website.