Roof Moves Again, Friday Night Sky Reopens in Shady Acres

The third-most-famous retractable roof in Houston opened up for visitors last Friday for the first time in 2 years. Artist James Turrell’s Skyspace — in the Live Oaks Friends Meeting House at 1318 W. 26th St. in Shady Acres — will again be coaxing in the night sky for the public every Friday evening, starting an hour before sunset. What shut out the twilight for so long?

The ceiling’s hatch runs on rails that until recently were mounted on a wooden support that was sheathed in metal. Thanks to Houston’s semitropical climate, water worked its way into the wood and began rotting it out, [property clerk Philip] Koch said.

“We didn’t know this for sure until we actually did the repair work, but it was making some pretty ominous noises and was getting stuck,” Koch said. “We didn’t want it to get stuck in the open position because we’re open to the heavens and the rain comes in.”

Members initially thought the system could be repaired, but further assessment showed it would need to be redesigned and replaced, adding a $50,000 price tag to the $100,000 the Live Oak Friends Meeting had already received from the Houston Endowment based on early estimates.

The new design replaced the metal-sheathed wooden curb with what Koch described as “a piece of pipe, basically, that’s square in cross section and that has special pieces on the side – both to keep the hatch from moving off the rails and also to keep it in place in the event of a hurricane. That had to be custom made, and so did the pieces to attach it to the roof.”

Photos: Flickr user TxTamz (Meeting House); Devin Borden Hiram Butler Gallery (Skyspace)

4 Comment

  • I brought a date for a Friday evening viewing last summer and found the place closed. It would have been nice if they had announced on their website that the roof was closed for repairs.

  • The juxtaposition of this structure and the structure in the previous post is pretty wild.

  • From Carol:

    The juxtaposition of this structure and the structure in the previous post is pretty wild.


    Some like simplicity. Some like Louis XIV, XV, and XVI. The Marie Antoinette types tend to like Louis. And some like Tuscan. Unless they’ve been to Tuscany and know better…

  • The Skyspace is great, while simple.
    It’s a pleasant room with a perfect, knife-edged hole in a curved ceiling.
    It’s like putting your nose up against a white, cardboard kodachrome slide frame and studying the sky changes through only that aperture.
    There are color illusions caused by separating the view from its larger context. (All colors seen within a bigger ‘picture’ are also completely warped, though we never realize it.)