Kissing the Sky:

James Turrells's Skyspaces


  • Chris Cottrell RMIT University



Interiority, Spatial condition, Spatial volumes, Spatial design


In contrast to terms which make clear distinctions regarding spatial limits, such as inside and outside, interiority can be understood as an ambiguous spatial condition. A sense of interiority, where spatial volumes interact as a dynamic interplay of surfaces, materials, atmospheres and perceptions, is a constant blurring of these limits. This interplay is foregrounded in the work of James Turrell, whose projects engage the complexity of these relationships. His projects create ambiguous and oscillating readings of inside and outside, the experience of which is more complex than the abstract or sublime experience of his work as typically represented. This paper will discuss an early installation by Turrell called Meeting (1986) in relation to Sylvia Lavin’s notion of ‘kissing’: an extended metaphor which uses the term in both its bodily and geometric senses, to describe a more pliable and dynamic notion of spatial threshold. Kissing will be used to think through the relationships present in the experience of Turrell’s work. I will examine how combinations of our bodies, exterior atmospheres – weather, and interior atmospheres – ambience, intermix to create new, provisional ways of thinking about threshold. This complex experience of interiority distinguishes it from the discipline of architecture. Thinking of the interior as distinct from architecture allows it to operate as a site of experimentation, which can disrupt our habitual attention and invite a reconsideration of the categories we employ to make useful sense of the world.


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Author Biography

Chris Cottrell, RMIT University

Chris Cottrell teaches in the Interior Design programme at RMIT University, where he is also a PhD candidate. He holds a Bachelor of Architecture from the University of Auckland and a Masters degree in fine art from the Edinburgh College of Art. His creative practice explores the relationships between bodies, spaces, materials and ephemeral effects and has been exhibited throughout New Zealand, Australia and the United Kingdom. He has also participated in artist residency projects in Scotland, Slovenia and New Zealand. Projects and research activities are archived at




How to Cite

Cottrell, Chris. 2012. “Kissing the Sky:: James Turrells’s Skyspaces”. Idea Journal 12 (1):88-97.



Design Research Paper