James Turrell's Roden Crater project is the result of years of research and planning. Its construction will involve both a modification and a preservation of the volcano's natural composition. Light will enter the interior of the crater through openings and tunnels, which like military bunker architecture will be almost invisible on the earth's exterior. The celestial alignments have been refined in collaboration with astronomers and the practical design detailed with the help of architects and engineers.
The crater's unique architecture is designed to equally accommodate light and people: staircases will function as light-bellows, water pools as lenses, tunnels as a camera obscura for magnified images of the sun and moon.
The shape of each space is determined not by aesthetic design but by its function to capture, direct, and hold natural light as well as to move visitors through the crater. Adapting to low-light conditions they will perceive progressively more subtle luminous experiences inside and outside.
The prime contractor for the Roden Crater Project is the Ashton Company of Tucson, Arizona. Structural concrete will be used to create the underground chambers, tunnels, portals and skyspaces within the volcanic cone. The architectural design of the art spaces and the walkway will also incorporate native sandstone, basalt and cinders.
To assure correct alignment to capture celestial events and to provide for the greatest safety during excavation and construction, a traditional cut and fill, cast in place method will be used to construct the tunnels. Over 450,00 cubic yards of earth will be moved to reshape the Crater Bowl and to prepare the site for the subterannean structures, a plan which has been engineered to avoid the need for importing additional materials. The last portion of the work in progress will involve reclamation and revegetation of Roden Crater.
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