clerestory is an architecturally integrated optical work that brings views of the sky into a library’s vaulted Storytime Tower, a place used for storytelling in the children’s collection. Whenever the the sky outdoors is bright, the vault is illuminated by images of the sky, clouds, treetops, and neighboring building. The imagery changes constantly, a direct live projection of what is happening immediately outside. The projection is natural, with no electronics or power source other than the light outside. It is bright enough to be seen even with the ambient lights of the library.

The work is an elaborate camera obscura, a Latin term for ‘darkened chamber’ in which a small opening admits light from the bright outdoors into an interior space. It’s the basis for the cameras we use today, whether they be sophisticated professional cameras, mobile phones, or pinhole cameras. clerestory uses a system of two apertures and two mirrors with a corresponding curved ceiling vault on which images are projected and focused.

Five years in the making, design work on clerestory began in 2011 as the library was on the drawing board. The installation involves custom designed and fabricated optical elements– the largest ever used in Jackson’s work– and careful integration with the building’s structure. Special window housings extend out from the building’s exterior, making room for the lenses, mirrors, and light baffles that capture and focus the exterior light and views. The interior of the tower is fitted with a unique quarter-dome whose curvature is precisely matched to the optics to create an enormous field of projected imagery without corners.

The unprecedented scale and quality of this project was made possible with the engineering expertise of Contrast, in Albuquerque, New Mexico, the fabrication capabilities of Syntec Optics, in Rochester, New York, and the public art team at Denver Arts and Venues. The Rodolfo ‘Corky’ Gonzales Branch Library is at 1498 Irving Street in Denver, Colorado. Click for a map.


Invaluable assistance was provided by Contrast, Syntec Optics, and Denver Arts and Venues.

Contrast. Syntec Optics Denver Arts and Venues