Roden Crater, located in the Painted Desert, Arizona, is a revolutionary art work created within a volcanic cinder cone by light and space artist James Turrell. Constructed to last for centuries to come, Roden Crater functions as a naked eye observatory of earthly and celestial events. it had been fashioned into a site containing tunnels and apertures that open onto pristine skies, capturing light directly from the sun in daylight hours, and the planets and stars at night.As construction on Roden Crater is ongoing since 1977, it is presently closed to the public. Fundraising is underway to complete the construction and open Roden Crater to the public in the next Major Lunar standstill at apogee in 2025.
For over half a century, the American artist James Turrell has worked directly with light and space to create artworks that engage viewers with the limits and wonder of human perception. Turrell, an avid pilot who has logged over twelve thousand hours flying, considers the sky as his studio, material and canvas. New Yorker critic Calvin Tompkins writes, “His work is not about light, or a record of light; it is light — the physical presence of light made manifest in sensory form.”
Roden Crater belongs to a tradition of monumental structures that have been built by artists, rulers and priests, ancient and modern. Above-ground observatories for specific celestial events include Maes Howe in Scotland (which predates the pyramids), Newgrange in Ireland, and Abu Simbal in Egypt. Remnants of ancient sites that resemble ‘handmade volconoes,’ large mounds with a depression at the summit, are also scattered around the world. These include…
Incredible, ethereal, and expensive – those are all fitting words to describe James Turrell’s desert observatory. Nestled inside the Roden Crater in the Painted Desert region of Northern Arizona, the project is several years in the making, requiring precise measurements in order to align the desired visuals with the angles of the constructed vantage points. Turrell is essentially turning this dormant volcanic crater into an observatory, or what he calls a “gateway to observe light, time, and space.”
Every 18.61 years (the most recent was 2006) the moon reaches its northernmost and southernmost maximums known as a Major Lunar Standstill. Viewed through the tunnel, the southernmost moonset will form a reverse image on the west side of the image stone. The next Major Lunar Standstill is calculated to be at apogee in 2025.