James Turrell's House of Light
In the heart of Niigata, 2.7m above ground to cope with heavy winter snowfalls we find a meditation house designed by James Turrell, where guests can spend the night within this immersive installation
House of Light
When I first met Fram Kitagawa, he asked me to make a "meditation house" for the Echigo-Tsumari region. He gave me a book written by Junichiro Tanizaki "In Praise of Shadows." The condition he gave me was that the house must be raised over 2.7m above the ground because of snow covering in winter.
After reading "In Praise of Shadows", I decided to create a house in the traditional architectural manner of this region. I wished to realise the " world of shadows we are losing," as Tanizaki wrote, as a space where one can experience living in light by relating light inside to light outside.
Light outside is light in the sky. I devised to have the roof slide so that one could look up at the sky through the opened ceiling. As Tanizaki describes that "In making for ourselves a place to live, we fitst spread a parasol to throw a shadow on the earth, and in the pale light of the shadow we put together a house.(...) If the roof of a Japanese house is a parasol, the roof of a Western house is no more than a cap," my designed house should have a roof as a parasol. A parasol to cover as well as a parasol to open. The skylight has different aspects at daytime and night.
Light inside is light in water. I furnished the bathroom with fibre optic so that one could look down light in the water of the bath.
On the top of the house, one can look out trees over the Shinano River, while on the first floor one can look into trees.
In the interior space, one can experience a soft transforming light.
I attempted to create the "beauty of shadows" by using familiar Japanese idioms such as shojii (paper sliding door) and tokonoma (alcove).
The blue of sky, the gold of walls, the red of an alcove, the green of the bath and the black tone over the entire space will bring about subtle contrast.
This is an approach to Japanese culture of mine as a Western.
For me as an artist who has sought for the "perception of light", the House of Light was an attempt to contrast as well as to incorporate day and night, the Eastern and the Western, tradition and modern.
– James Turrell