The Color Inside is a milestone in The University of Texas at Austin's Landmarks public art collection. Through an in-depth participatory design process, the project arose from the student body's desire for a peaceful retreat at UT-Austin's Student Activity Center, also designed by the firm. As a result, internationally acclaimed artist James Turrell was commissioned to design a 'Skyspace,' one of his renowned inhabitable artworks, to offer a transcendent space for quiet and reflection.
Upon entry, visitors discover an elliptical space with radiantly heated, honed black basalt seating, basalt flooring, and a reclined plaster bench back that directs focus to an oculus in the ceiling above. Computer-controlled LED lights tucked within a light cove illuminate the 'sensing space''a plaster surface located above the viewing bench'with changing color during an hour-long program everyday at dawn and dusk.
The work has no object, no physical presence; instead light, color, and perception are the artistic media. The design team worked hand in hand with the artist to realize the project, creating an atectonic, seamless 'canvas' for his ephemeral light installation. Typical control joints could not be used, so an elastomeric coating was applied to both the interior and exterior plaster surfaces, which expands and bridges gaps up to 1/8' wide when cracking does occur. The elliptical shape of the Skyspace required non-traditional structural grids, and the weight of the structure prevented it from being installed directly on the concrete roof of the SAC. As a result, the Skyspace actually hovers 7/8' above the roof, supported by two wide flange steel beams.
With a design and construction team dedicated to maintaining the integrity of Turrell's artistic vision, as well as the vision of UT-Austin's student body, The Color Inside is a remarkable work of beauty, detailed refinement, and exacting execution.