House of Light, Japan

American installation artist, James Turrell

 James Turrell (b. 1943) is known worldwide as an “artist of light.” His installation artworks take time to experience, time to take in the passage of time and changing shades of light. In 2000, Turrell took part in the First Echigo-Tsumari Triennal art event in Niigata Prefecture near the west coast of Japan to decorate an inn with subtle lightings throughout day and night. The suitably named “House of Light” was designed by Daigo Ishii +Future-scape Architects in classic Japanese style. There are tatami-matted rooms, wooden-floored corridors, and verandas and paper doors with cut-out windows for viewing the deep snow for which the Niigata region is known. Into these traditional surroundings, Turrell brought soft overhead lighting in various hues to project the play of light and shadows in the manner evoked by Junichiro Tanazaki in his famous 1933 essay, “In Praise of Shadows.”.  One room features an aperture that slides open to the sky, surrounded by a computer-coordinated ceiling that changes color as sunset progresses. At night, the house comes into its own, as stairways, doorframes, and even the edges of the bath glow with surreal light.

Turrel’s art is a program to see the changing hues of the sky at sunset for an hour. When the roof is opened, a guest on the first floor can see the sky indoors.
Entrance to the bath on the first floor. The left photo shows the atmosphere at night, and the right photo shows how it looks in day time.
Night view from the exterior, illuminated by the subtle effects of Turrell’s lightings.

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