Earthwork and eco-clinic: Notes on James Turrell’s ‘Roden Crater Project’ | Intellect Skip to content
Volume 2, Issue 2
  • ISSN: 2043-068X
  • E-ISSN: 2043-0698


Situated in the ‘Painted Desert’ north-east of Flagstaff, Arizona, James Turrell’s ‘Roden Crater Project’ is an unprecedented instance of landscape architecture and one of the most important examples of contemporary environmental art. Enclosed within the region’s volcanic terrain, the project adheres to a system of precise geocosmic alignments, showing a fealty to celestial and astronomical events comparable with the ancient architectures of Newgrange, Ireland and the Temple of the Sun at Karnak. While dominant readings of Turrell’s work suggest vague notions of its ‘harmony’ with its natural environment, we propose that the significance of the ‘Roden Crater Project’ deserves a more thoroughgoing reconsideration of the architecture–environment relationship. We argue against any aesthetic recourse to ecopsychological theories purporting a reconciliation of the divide between nature and culture. We instead offer, through readings of the philosophers Deleuze and Guattari and Nick Land, a novel theoretical framework for ecological aesthetics, which we call the eco-clinic. Drawing in particular on Deleuze and Guattari’s notion of ‘intensive space’ and Land’s conception of ‘geotrauma’, we argue that Turrell’s work represents a radical, post-naturalist reinvention of ecological perception that exceeds the nature/culture divide in every direction.


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