Photography: Locale Austin

Artist Robert Irwin has reimagined a demolished hospital in Marfa, Texas, for his first ever permanent installation.

The 10,000 sq ft project – some 17 years in the making – sits within the former military base that put minimalist artist Donald Judd on the map.

‘I like the architecture of the fort,’ explains 87-year-old Irwin, who built the artwork on the grounds of the original hospital. ‘All I did was take that form and elaborate it – make the walls thicker so you get a more substantial physicality to look out of. A real sense of frame.’

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Sited on a hillside, the u-shaped structure wraps around a courtyard lined with trees and a sculpture. One wing of the building is designed to be flooded with natural light and the other is shadowy. A transparent scrim divides the structure, while films on the windows further filter and manipulate the natural light.

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Extra tall windows frame the big Texas skies. ‘The clouds are right on top of your head,’ Irwin told W Magazine. ‘It’s like a wild west show everyday.’

His installation will offer a different experience as the light changes throughout the day.

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The octogenarian artist pioneered the Light and Space movement in the 1970s. Exploring the limits of perception, his work makes use of found and existing materials as well as natural light.

Commissioned by the Chinati Foundation – which Donald Judd established in 1986 after he bought the defunct Fort D A Russell military base and turned it into an arts hub –Irwin’s work is the first permanent installation to be added to the complex for over 16 years.

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Read next: why the art world loves Brutalism



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