Knight Rise Skyspace - CODAworx

Knight Rise Skyspace

Client: City of Scottsdale

Location: Scottsdale, Arizona, United States

Completion date: 2001

Artwork budget: $417,700

Project Team

Public Art Agent

Scottsdale Public Art

Scottsdale Public Art


City of Scottsdale

City of Scottsdale


James Turrell


Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art

Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art


Will Bruder Architects

Will Bruder Architects


Internationally acclaimed artist James Turrell has been creating skyspaces since 1975. Knight Rise, located in the Nancy and Art Schwalm Sculpture Garden at the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art, is one of only 14 skyspaces open to the public in the US. Skyspaces frame the sky as pure color and show us “the changing light of the sky, altering what we see with our own eyes.” The effects achieved within Knight Rise are difficult to describe. Because Turrell’s art plays on our perception of light and color, on our emotions and on our imagination, each visitor achieves an individual experience.


James Turrell’s Knight Rise skyspace is nestled into the space where the glass Scrim Wall by James Carpenter Studios meets SMoCA’s building, creating the Nancy and Art Schwalm sculpture garden. The oval shape of the skyspace was inspired by the curving arc shape of the courtyard. The skyspace was built two years after SMoCA’s inauguration and opened at the same time as the exhibition, James Turrell, Infinite Light. SMoCA considers Turrell’s skyspace to be an integral part of its identity and history.


James Turrell, Will Bruder (SMoCA’s architect), Scottsdale Public Art, and key SMOCA staff worked together to create the oval shape, size, and materials that make up the skyspace. The placement and angle of the oculus, bench seating, and lighting inside the skyspace were chosen specifically to achieve Turrell’s desired effects of the experience. Venetian plaster walls on the outer skin of the skyspace form a clean counterpoint to SMOCA’s dark walls and the Scrim Wall’s bright, dichroic glass panels which reflect varying colors with the sun’s movement.

Additional Information

Skyspaces allow us to see the sunset (and sunrise) as never before. At those times it seems the sky has come closer, as if we can reach out and touch it. Turrell says his work provides the opportunity to "look at our own looking." By doing so, Turrell grounds us in the present moment and reconnects us to the world we inhabit. Some report that spending several minutes in the space becomes a meditative activity. Others sense great emotional tranquility.