Trip the light fantastic at James Turrell’s Twilight Epiphany at Rice University

Rice-Skyspace-james turrell skyspace rice university
Photo credit: 365 Things to Do in Houston

Fall under the spell of a Sunset or Sunrise light show with Twilight Epiphany at the James Turrell Skyspace at Rice University.

Situated on the Rice University campus, next to the Shepherd School of Music, you’ll find James Turrell’s skypace. Housed within the Suzanne Deal Booth Centennial Pavilion, the aptly named Twilight Epiphany is Turrell’s 73rd such skyspace creation around the world and one of his largest.

Every day, at both sunrise and sunset, lights come alive within the pavilion. Their gentle and deliberate interplay with the natural rising or setting of the sun slowly paints a stunning, surreal and captivating light show on the skyspace ceiling.

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Photo credit: 365 Houston

The James Turrell Skyspace Rice University

The open air, pyramid-like structure welcomes up to 120 people on its two levels, at ground level within the skyspace itself, and on the second level which offers views of both the skyspace above and the movement of natural light around you.

At both levels, the focal point is the large square window to the sky situated in the middle of the 72-foot square roof, with a knife-edge both on its exterior edges and along the showcase sky window within.

During the light shows, LED lights situated within the second level project unique sequences. Turrell custom-designed two sequences, one each for both sunrise and sunset, which play precisely on the natural emergent light patterns.

The Twilight Epiphany Skyspace Experience

In both shows, Turrell’s light sequence is projected onto the pavilion’s ceiling. As the natural sunlight rises or ebbs, the color patterns work with it, lending unexpected hues and colors to the natural sky.

The show is silent, with no music and no narration. As the 40-minute presentation proceeds, many viewers take to laying on the benches, transfixed by the patterns moving above.

This is not a laser light show, but rather a slow experience that engages your own eyes and mind. Don’t be surprised if the large square window on the ceiling appears to pulse or move towards you while you are watching the performance.

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Photo: 365 Houston

Artist and Visionary James Turrell

James Turrell has been working with light and space for more than 40 years, creating real physical spaces and manipulating the sensory experiences found within them through both natural and artificial light.

Since 1967, his work has been the subject of approximately 150 solo art exhibitions across the world. He has two other major permanent installations in Houston, a smaller, more intimate Skyspace at the Quaker Meetinghouse and The Light Inside at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. The latter is the popular, neon and ambiently lit hallway that passes beneath Fannin Street and connecting the museum’s two buildings.

Turrell also has permanent installations at the Guggenheim Museum in New York as well as in Frankfurt, Germany; Varese, Italy, and Salta, Argentina.

Visiting the James Turrell Skyspace Rice University & Seeing Twilight Epiphany

Guests are encouraged to arrive to the Skyspace 15 minutes before the start of either the Sunrise or Sunset light shows.

The Sunrise light sequence begins about 40 minutes before the actual sunrise and the Sunset light experience begins at sunset itself. Exact times can be noted on the official calendar for the James Turrell Skyspace Rice University.

Shows continue as scheduled, regardless of weather, so dress accordingly. Reservations are suggested for the evening Sunset show.

Twilight Epiphany at The James Turrell Skyspace Rice University

  • Days and Times: Wednesdays through Monday, one hour before sunrise until 10pm; Tuesdays, one hour before sunrise until 4pm. Shows begin 20 minutes before sunset. Check the Skyspace’s website for start times for your specific day.
  • Location: The James Turrell Skyspace Rice University at the Suzanne Deal Booth Centennial Pavilion, Rice University, Houston, TX 77005
  • Parking: Parking is available on the Rice Campus at the Alice Pratt Brown Parking Lot (West Lot 1). You can access it from Entrance 18 on Rice Blvd or Entrance 8 on University Blvd.
  • Admission: Free, but please submit an RSVP online if you intend to attend a sunset show. Groups of ten or more should contact Emily Stein at [email protected] to make a reservation.
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Photo credit: 365 Houston

Photo note: Photos were taken before and after an official showing of the Sunset Twilight Epiphany.