James Turrell’s House of Light

We felt now is as good a time as any to dig a bit deeper into our archives to find comfort in some of the inspiring sites from our travels we’ve kept aside and have been meaning to share for a while. We’ve traveled to Japan more times than we can count yet there are still so many moments and places that leave us feeling marveled. One such experience was our stay at House of Light created by James Turrell – a house that is at once an accommodation, a meditation house and a private art installation. Now more than ever, while we all keep to our homes, are we appreciating the beautiful attempts of artists and designers around the world to create places for us to live where outdoors and indoors coexist.

House of Light is located just outside Tōkamachi. It was a trek from the small rural town train station, so we bolted there as soon as possible to maximize our time in the art space. The house was intended to accommodate three small groups, but the rain that particular day delayed the train system and resulted in the other two groups rescheduling their reservation. So, we got to experience the entire place to ourselves.

The Skyspace is located in one room of the house but there is a very lovely kitchen area, bathhouse with its own light installation and a balcony that runs the circumference of the house. Guests have the choice of spreading out their futon anywhere for the night so we chose to sleep directly under the Skyspace and watch the light shows from the comforts of our bed.

The house is designed with a retractable ceiling that covers the Skyspace in the case of heavy rain. The guests of the residence are expected to take care of the work. That responsibility essentially fell on us. When we sensed a drizzle from above, we immediately had to hit a button that closes a retractable roof otherwise the tatami floor beneath it would get soaked!

James Turrell’s intention, as with many of his other Skyspaces is the experience of light… light from the water, light from the sky above and through the intense colours of his installation. When you’re in the space, it’s almost impossible not to feel one with nature, as the chilled air washes over you from the cutout above. The square aperture is entrancing, making you hypnotized and focused. We stared up for hours and took mental and physical snapshots of our favorite colour combinations. Each of us interpreting colour wavelength uniquely, which made for an individualized sensory experience. Colour has a physicality and power when you are in the space. Sometimes calming. Sometimes stimulating. 

House of Light was out of the ordinary even when compared to the numerous Turrell installations around the world we have seen. It has the same captivating light show, the same power to bring us to a place of reflection, the same fusion of nature and nothingness – the difference, was that this was the first time we were able to sleep under one.

Written by Stevenson Aung

Stevenson Aung

April 07, 2020

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