James Turrell & Studio Works

Grand Center, Saint Louis, Missouri, 1988-1991

This project was aimed at restructuring and giving a new dynamic to an old neighbourhood of St. Louis in the state of Missouri, formerly renowned for its theatres and its night life. James Turrell and Studio Works focused their proposal on the notion of “architectural event” and on the use of light, in order to preserve the existing urban configuration, while revealing the qualities peculiar to the buildings. Seven levels of intervention were defined, functioning like so many different urban strategies, with each one bringing out a type of lighting:  On Stage Off Stage, Street and Green, Discrete Elements, Clusters, Acropolis, Overlaid Patterns and Patchwork Quilt. On Stage Off Stage, for example, formalizes the characteristics of Grand Boulevard with its lights, its theatres, and its restaurants (On Stage), while at the same time stigmatizing the aesthetics of the wings, with their emergency exits and metal doors (Off Stage). The different intervention strategies in this project focused on the interplay of theatre and cinema spots, and treated all the neighbourhood features like one big set. Through the choice of colours, the principle of intermittent lighting, the installation of screens and mirrors reflecting daytime and nighttime effects, foreground spaces and “off-stage” spaces were successfully redefined. The result of this precise and inventive analysis was a revived activity. Precisely where theatres, churches and cinemas were scattered in the neighbourhood, Turrell and Studio Works emphasized their connections through visual means. The illumination permitted a new dialogue between façades, emergency stairs, parking exits, terraces, gardens, and city signs. In this public space project, the architecture was de-monumentalized through the notion of the visual and acoustic event; visitors/spectators were urged to become the protagonists on the stage.

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