American artist James Turrell’s Skyspace installations are concerned with viewers’ perceptions of light, space, and the sky. What better way to soak all that in than at a boutique hotel on the beach?
Turrell’s newest Skyspace—there are about 100 different ones worldwide—is built into a hill at Posada Ayana, a private villa-turned-hotel in the arts-centric town Jose Ignacio on the coast of Uruguay. Robert Kofler, who owns the hotel with his wife, Edda, commissioned the installation after experiencing a Skyspace installation in Argentina and another in the Austrian Alps. (The couple hail from Vienna.)
The hotel unveiled its Skyspace, titled “Ta Khut” (“the light” in early Egyptian), in November. The construction timeline was swift at just 18-months. Basically, the speed of light compared to the Skyspace at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art which was 35-years in the making before its debut last spring. “Ta Khut” is the first freestanding Skyspace in South America.
The installation consists of several elements: At the core is a 20-foot high, 13-foot diameter domed structure made of white Italian marble bricks. It sits on a polished granite platform with a cement-wall enclosure. The entire thing is nestled atop an earth-covered embankment. Cement-lined tunnels on two sides lead to native wood plank doors that open into the enclosure; another set of doors bring you inside the dome. It sounds complicated, but the presentation is wholly minimalistic.
Once inside the dome, viewers gaze up at the skylight. Artificial lights morph from one color to the next. It’s as though the sky itself is changing color. The experience is other-worldly. According to the hotel, Turrell drew inspiration from the light that reflects from the area’s open skies onto the open ocean and vice versa.
Turrell’s installation is a unique draw. The Koflers plan it to be the centerpiece of a large park on Posada Ayana’s property that will also include a sculpture garden and an amphitheater.
Meanwhile the cosmopolitan locale has much to offer in the way of culture. The Jose Ignacio International Film Festival happens this month on the beach, there is lots of live music, and the Art Fest Garzon is a late December event. The hotel itself has a selection of Latin-American films with English subtitles and often hosts salon-style movie nights. There is also a collection of works by female Uruguayan artists on display.
The Koflers hosted a soft opening for locals at the end of 2020, then re-opened in earnest this past November. Posada Ayana is a simple, thoughtfully-designed paradise. That the property is adults-only enhances its peaceful allure. Local architect Alcvaro Perez Azar initially designed the stylish structure as the Koefler’s private residence. Soon after completion, however, the family decided to convert it into a hotel. The vibe, they say, is meant to exude the glamour of 1960s Côte d’Azur.
Good, sustainable, and local design is a priority. Each of the 17 guest rooms is at least 500-square-feet, features floor-to-ceiling windows on two sides, and has either a private garden or an ocean view. The team sourced all of the furniture locally from Uruguay and Argentina. Many are 1950s and 1960s vintage pieces from the adjacent towns Punta del Este and Montevideo. There are blankets hand-woven from naturally dyed wool shorn from sheep that roam nearby and vegetable-based soaps and creams, also from a local Uruguayan maker.
The hotel restaurant and bar also overlook the gardens, with the ocean in the distance. Bespoke ceramic tableware came from another Uruguayan artisan while the ceramic serveware supports a local foundation working with disadvantaged teens. In addition to providing in restaurant meals—online reviews declare their breakfasts sublime—the establishment arranges private dinner parties complete with freshly-caught seafood and organic wines.
Posada Ayana’s green marble infinity pool is perfectly positioned to catch the sunset. The warm wood deck is a respite after a busy day of hiking, horseback riding, kayaking, or kitesurfing.
For more information, visit posada-ayana.com