For the past 30 years or so an astounding renovation has been underway below Roden Crater, a 3 km-wide dormant volcanic cinder cone located northeast of Flagstaff, the brilliance of which probably won’t be apparent until this large-scale artistic endeavor opens when ready, apparently in 2012.
The artist responsible, James Turrell, purchased the crater in 1979. He studied ‘optics and perceptual psychology’ and is known as a sculptor of light. Over the years, he has used natural and artificial light to help create his work (many in the form of optical illusions) and challenge people’s perceptions of the world around them.
Many of his pieces involve something called a “skyspace,” essentially a room which has had precisely calculated sections of the ceiling and/or walls removed in order for light to enter the room at a specific angle.
The Roden Crater project is an enormous task which is surely one of the most ambitious art projects ever undertaken. After years of meticulous planning, Turrell set about sculpting and hollowing the upper parts of the volcano by removing endless tons of earth. He has since filled those spaces with numerous light-filled chambers and a huge 854-ft long concrete tunnel which serves as an entrance from the side of the volcano.
Depending on the location of these chambers and/or the current position of the sun, moon and stars, different light shows will be experienced by the viewer and various astronomical events will be given a truly unique viewpoint.