The International VELUX Award is a competition for students of architecture that runs every second year. We challenge students from all over the world to work with daylight as an ever relevant source of light, life and joy. The award is one of the most important global student competitions of its kind.

Submission is now closed. The jury will review the projects in July and the regional winners will be announced in August.

Coming Closer to the Sky

The ‘Skyspaces’ by the American light artist James Turrell are sky observatories, spaces of mostly circular or elliptical plan, in which the visitor feels very close to the sky: The solid and mostly bare concrete walls of the rooms entirely blind out the surrounding landscape and focus the view entirely on the round ceiling opening, through which, depending on the time of day and the weather, pale grey or steel-blue daylight, moonlight or starlight enters the room.

"So to have this sort of blended light from the stars and this new, 8½-minute-old light from the sun is like having a Beaujolais and then a finer, older mature wine as well."

James Turrell

After dark, fluorescent tubes installed behind the high backs of the benches set the room ablaze with an almost magical light. Then, not only the vaulted ceiling seems to change colour but also the firmament visible in the ceiling cut-out. For James Turrell, one of the fundamental appeals of his ‘Skyspace’ series is this alternation between ‘young’ artificial light and the billion-year old starlight. The sky observatories gained fame through Turrell’s gigantic land art project ‘Roden Crater’, an extinct volcano in Arizona’s desert. It can be visited by only 14 people a day, so the waiting list is correspondingly long. European art-lovers can experience the ‘Skyspace’ thanks to a replica installed near the Castell Hotel in Zuoz/Engadine. The circular ‘Skyspace Piz Uter’ (altar mountain) was converted by UN Studio last summer. The name comes from the mountain near Zuoz that is precisely in the alignment of the entrance, clear and visible from the inside and defining the structure’s position in the landscape. The ‘Skyspace’ was realised on the initiative of the Swiss trust fund Walter A. Bechtler Foundation, whose president, Roedi Bechtler, is the main shareholder of the Castell Hotel. The hotel’s art decoration, which presently comprises the rock pool by Tadashi Kawamata, the ‘Red Bar’ by Gabriele Hächler and Pipilotti Rist, as well as works by Peter Fischli/David Weiss, Roman Signer, Carsten Höller and other contemporary artists, now includes another highlight. The ‘Skyspace’ is integrated into the ‘Art Public Plaiv’ art project, for which the Bechtler Foundation, in collaboration with the Zurich School of Art and Design, has already funded a dozen or so artworks in Zuoz and the neighbouring communities.

This article is featured in D/A magazine #4, for more information visit

By the VELUX Group | Photography by Florian Holzherr