Creative Industry Report – House of Light by James Turrell

The House of Light, by James Turrell, is located in a hillside forest in Tokamachi, Niigata, Japan. House of Light exists as an experimental work of art that also serves as a guesthouse, where visitors can experience the light with their entire bodies during their stay. Using light as the main medium, which is key in his perceptual works, Turrell combined the intimate light of a traditional Japanese house with his works of light. Both time-specific and site-specific, “House of Light” serves as an experience of living in a Turrell work overnight.

“Outside In” by James Turrell
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For Turrell who has been searching for and exploring the “perception of light”, House of Light is his attempt to contrast and merge day and night, East and West, Tradition and Modernity. One of the two works that can be experienced in the House of Light is “Outside In”, which is a tatami room with a ceiling that can be exposed to the sky using a sliding panel on the roof. As of Turrell’s Skyspaces, which are constructed chambers with an aperture exposing the sky, the work “Outside In” intended for the viewers to be able to “live in the light”.

“Light Bath” by James Turrell

Another work that can be experienced in House of Light is “Light bath”, which explores light in an indoor space, experienced by those who stay overnight at the House of Light. Using optical fibres than run through the bathroom, while being immersed in the tub, the viewer can experience the interplay of light and shadow against the water.

“House of Light” by James Turrell

The House of Light exists in itself as a work of art and also as an accommodation facility where you can interact with the art spaces. Turrell established the terms of the experience where he wanted the guests to interact and discuss their thoughts overnight as they share the world of light and shadow. As a fully functioning guesthouse, it charges 4000 yen (per person, plus a facility charge of 20000 yen for the building, which is divided evenly between guests.

I think it is intriguing that a work of art can function as a business establishment that sells the time-based experience of art. It alters the conventional way of interacting with an artwork, going beyond a short-term immersion in space. Relating to the concept of ‘experience’, the article “Welcome to the Experience economy” explores the emerging fourth economic offering of experience. As consumers unquestionably desire experiences, more and more businesses are responding by explicitly designing and promoting them. 

House of Light serves as an example of this direct relationship, where guests pay for the ephemeral experience. Considering a more philosophical aspect of the experiential perspective, which involves sensation, perception and cognition, how can I apply the novelty of sensory and perceptual experiences to the real world? The idea of using ‘place’ and giving it an experiential perspective seems to have a viable market, but it should be created for a targeted group that understands the work and would like to experience the art as it is intended. 


Pine, B. J., & Gilmore, J. H. (1998). Welcome to the experience economy. Harvard business review76, 97-105.

Tuan, Y. F. (1977). Space and place: The perspective of experience. U of Minnesota Press.


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