Back to map
Image: Mark Pinder

i

Cat Cairn: the Kielder Skyspace

James Turrell, 2000

A sculpture where internationally acclaimed US artist James Turrell manipulates our normal perceptions of light and space.

Read more

Media Gallery

See more

What's your perspective?

We want to see your photos of your visit to Kielder. Be creative and have fun!

See the photos

Have your say

Let us know what you think about this piece of art.

Add your comment

"My work is not so much about my seeing as about your seeing. There is no one between you and your experience". James Turrell

Cat Cairn: the Kielder Skyspace is a sculptural artwork located on a rocky outcrop overlooking Kielder Water & Forest Park by internationally renowned American artist James Turrell. The artwork consists of a short tunnel that leads to a partially buried circular room with a ceiling containing a central circular oculus or opening and a ring of seats forming the lower part of the inner wall.

In spring 2018 Kielder Skyspace underwent a major refurbishment that included replacing or updating all of its lighting and power equipment as well as repainting the upper chamber and stripping the original painted finish on the seats back to bare concrete, as originally intended.

The new lighting programme has been designed by James Turrell working closely with lighting artist Eleanor Bell and differs fundamentally from the original system. When first installed in 2000, fibre optics provided a constant level of light in the chamber throughout the daytime to nightime transition. The new LED set up delivers far more even and much brighter illumination and incorporates a digitally controlled lighting programme that varies the intensity of the lighting throughout the period of transition - 65 minutes in total starting at sunset each day.

See drop down menu on the left: 'Skyspace lighting times and evening visiting information' for lighting start times and further information.

The enhancement of Skyspace has been made possible through support from Arts Council England, the Henry Moore Foundation, Northumberland County Council, and Forestry Commission England.

 

 

See more films and photography

View our Flickr gallery

The nearest public parking is at the car park sited just off the C200 at the bottom of the forest road signposted to the Skyspace, and beyond to the Observatory.

Walking to the Skyspace takes around 45 minutes, by bicycle, approximately 20 minutes depending on ability. The return downhill trip is considerably quicker by bicycle. Visitors should note that the Skyspace is approximately 360 feet/110m higher than the bottom car park and while the route is not a difficult walk, the additional elevation makes the site more exposed, and it is often colder and windier up on the hill.

There are also views across Kielder Water & Forest Park from the rocky outcrop behind the Skyspace.

Visitors wishing to drive up to the sculpture will need to get a key to pass through the forestry barrier beyond the lower car park. Keys are available from Kielder visitor centres, the local shop, the Anglers Arms in Kielder village and from the Calvert Trust activity centre.

Skyspace can also be accessed by following the Lonesome Pine red grade mountainbike trail. For comprehensive listing of cycle trails within Kielder Water & Forest Park, go to things-to-do/cycling and for the singletrack trails things-to-do/mountain-biking.

OS map re. NY 613928

Cat Cairn: the Kielder Skyspace is a sculptural artwork located on a rocky outcrop overlooking Kielder Water & Forest Park by internationally renowned American artist James Turrell. Over eighty Skyspaces exist worldwide and although each is different, all share a viewing room and and an opening to the sky. Kielder Skyspace has a short tunnel leading to a partially buried circular room, a ceiling containing a central circular oculus or opening, and a ring of seats forming the lower part of the inner wall.

The main structure presents an overall feel of rugged simplicity and quiet away from the visual distractions found outside. We often experience the sky as being 'far away' because we see it disappearing behind trees, hills or houses. The Skyspace removes these clues and when seen from inside, the sky is often perceived to be right on top of the space, or sometimes intruding into it.

Visitors will find themselves in a space where the artist manipulates our normal perceptions of light and space. In daylight hours, this chamber; illuminated only by natural light through the roof opening, is a rugged contemplative space that presents the ever-changing sky as a moving picture for visitor's enjoyment and meditation. As the light conditions change at dusk, a ring of hidden lights illuminate the upper part of the chamber providing visitors with an extremely unusual display of tone and colour lasting for just over an hour.

James Turrell is interested in the psychology of perception, essentially how our brains work to make sense of the world around us and 'invent' a reality to fit the information that our senses provide. In the Skyspace, a visitor's experience of colour becomes particularly challenged and the sky viewed from within the space often appears very different from the same sky seen outside. However, visitors are reminded that this is by its very nature an individual experience, and no two people will 'see' the same thing.

A 10 minute walk up the forestry road beyond the Skyspace is the site of the Kielder Observatory where visitors can walk around its decks in the daytime or attend astronomical events in the evening.

Art & Architecture guide starting from Kielder Castle Visitor Centre

 

Lighting times at the Skyspace change throughout the year as the days lengthen towards the summer solstice in June and shorten towards the winter solstice in December. The following table gives a good idea of the best times to visit the Skyspace in the evening at different times of the year. The lighting programme runs for just over an hour every day, always starting at sunset.

In summer months there is usually still light in the sky when the lighting programme finishes. In winter however, although sunset is much earlier in the day twilight is also much shorter, so visitors might wish to bring a torch to assist their journey back down to the car park near the C200.

Please note, you are advised to arrive at least 10 minutes before the programme is due to start. When the system is activated the tunnel lights will be on. A PIR sensor in the entrance recognises that a visitor has entered the space and triggers the main lighting.

The programme starts with the lighting starting low, then swiftly turning up to 75% and then to maximum, which clearly delineates the start of the show. After holding for 3 minutes, it dims down to 50%, holds, and rises again to 75%. During this time, the light levels continue to fall outside producing a range of different visual efects as the intensity of the light inside and outside the space continuously move in and out of balance.

The interior lighting finally rises rapidly to maximum again, by which time the sky will appear an inky black when seen through the oculus.

After pausing at maximum for 3 minutes, the lighting drops rapidly to 40%, holds for 5 minutes and then drops to 0% over a further 2 minutes, allowing visitors to leave the space in their own time.

The full programme lasts for 65 minutes.

 

date sunset time  
     
Jan-04 3 52  
Jan-11 4 06  
Jan-18 4 19  
Jan-25 3 33  
Feb-01 4 47  
Feb-08 5 02  
Feb-15 5 17  
Feb-22 5 32  
Mar-01 5 46  
Mar-08 6 00  
Mar-15 6 14  
Mar-22 6 29  
Mar-29 7 42  
Apr-05 7 56  
Apr-12 8 10  
Apr-19 8 23  
Apr-26 8 37  
May-03 8 51  
May-10 9 04  
May-17 9 17  
May-24 9 28  
May-31 9 39  
Jun-07 9 47  
Jun-14 9 52  
Jun-21 9 55  
Jun-28 9 55  
Jul-05 9 52  
Jul-12 9 45  
Jul-19 9 36  
Jul-26 9 25  
Aug-02 9 12  
Aug-09 8 58  
Aug-16 8 42  
Aug-23 8 26  
Aug-30 8 08  
Sep-06 7 50  
Sep-13 7 32  
Sep-20 7 14  
Sep-27 6 56  
Oct-04 6 38  
Oct-11 6 21  
Oct-18 6 04  
Oct-25 5 47  
Nov-01 4 32  
Nov-08 4 18  
Nov-15 4 06  
Nov-22 3 55  
Nov-29 3 47  
Dec-06 3 42  
Dec-13 3 40  
Dec-21 3 42  
Dec-28 3 47  

 

Lighting times at the Skyspace change throughout the year as the days lengthen towards the summer solstice in June and shorten towards the winter solstice in December. The table below gives a good idea of the best times to visit the Skyspace in the evening at different times of the year. The lighting programme runs for just over an hour every day, always starting at sunset.

In summer months there is usually still light in the sky when the lighting programme finishes. In winter however, although sunset is much earlier in the day twilight is also much shorter, so visitors might wish to bring a torch to assist their journey back down to the car park near the C200.

Please note, you are advised to arrive at least 10 minutes before the programme is due to start. When the system is activated the tunnel lights will be on. A PIR sensor in the entrance recognises that a visitor has entered the space and triggers the main lighting.

Visitors can expect the tunnel lights to come on 5 minutes before the time shown in the table, and the programme to start 15 minutes later - or 10 minutes after the sunset time shown in the table.

The start of the programme is clearly signalled by the interior lighting intensity climbing swiftly to three-quarters brightness and then holding before climbing again to full, clearly delineating the start of the show.

After that, the intensity drops back to half, then rises in stages as the daylight diminishes outside.

During this time, the light levels continue to fall outside producing a range of different visual effects within the space as the intensity of the light inside and outside continuously move in and out of balance.

Light levels eventually peak again at full when the sky viewed through the ceiling opening will look inky black.

After a short pause, light levels gradually drop back to zero over a period of 12 minutes.

The lighting programme lasts 65 minutes in total. After the main lighting finishes, the tunnel lights will remain on for a short while to guide visitors out of the space.

 

2018

Oct 9

18.26

Oct 16

18.08

Oct 23

17.52

Oct 30

16.36

Nov 6

16.22

Nov 13

16.09

Nov 20

15.58

Nov 27

15.49

Dec 4

15.43

Dec 11

15.40

Dec 18

15.40

Dec 25

15.44

2019

Jan 1

15.51

Jan 8

16.00

Jan 15

16.12

Jan 22

16.25

Jan 29

16.39

Feb 5

16.54

Feb 12

17.09

Feb 19

17.24

Feb 26

17.38

Mar 5

17.53

Mar 12

18.07

Mar19

18.21

Mar 26

18.35

Apr 2

19.48

Apr 9

20.02

Apr16

20.16

Apr 23

20.30

Apr 30

20.44

May 7

20.57

May 14

21.10

May 21

21.22

May 28

21.33

Jun 4

21.42

Jun 11

21.49

Jun 18

21.54

Jun 25

21.55

Jul 2

21.53

Jul 9

21.48

Jul 16

21.40

Jul 23

21.30

Jul 30

21.18

Aug 6

21.04

Aug 13

20.49

Aug 20

20.33

Aug 27

20.16

Sept 3

19.59

Sept 10

19.41

Sept 17

19.23

Sept 24

19.04

Oct 1

18.46

Oct 8

18.29

Oct 15

18.11

Oct 22

17.55

Oct 29

16.39

Nov 5

16.24

Nov 12

16.11

Nov 19

16.00

Nov 26

15.51

Dec 3

15.44

Dec 10

15.40

Dec 17

15.40

Dec 24

15.43

Dec 31

15.49