Sun Tunnels

Nancy Holt
Great Basin Desert, Utah
Concrete, steel, earth
Overall dimensions: 9 ft. 2-1/2 in. x 86 ft. x 53 ft. (2.8 x 26.2 x 16.2 m); length on the diagonal: 86 ft. (26.2 m)
Collection Dia Art Foundation with support from Holt/Smithson Foundation

In a remote valley of Utah’s Great Basin Desert, Holt’s massive ​Sun Tunnels ​looms along the horizon, visible from over a mile away. The four concrete structures are arranged in a cross formation, positioned precisely to frame the sun as it rises and sets during the summer and winter solstices. Small holes are configured in the concrete to cast projections of constellations along the tunnels’ interior; Draco, Perseus, Columba, and Capricorn materialize out of sunlight, their patterns illuminated upon the viewer inside. With ​Sun Tunnels, ​Holt brings the cosmos down to the earth and into the realm of human experience.


Published writing by Nancy Holt

Sun Tunnels

Nancy Holt

Sun Tunnels, 1973–76, is built on forty acres, which I bought in 1974 specifically as a site for the work. The land is in the Great Basin Desert in northwestern Utah, about four miles southeast of Lucin (pop. ten) and nine miles east of the Nevada border.

Sun Tunnels marks the yearly extreme positions of the sun on the horizon—the tunnels being aligned with the angles of the rising and setting of the sun on the days of the solstices, around June 21st and December 21st. On those days the sun is centered through the tunnels, and is nearly center for about ten days before and after the solstices.

Scholarly Text

Everything and Nothing: On Nancy Holt’s "Sun Tunnels" (1973–76)

Julian Myers-Szupinska
Let me tell you some things I like about Earthworks. I use the designation “Earthworks” advisedly. Holt referred to her work as “Land Art,” seeing the quasi-genre of Earth Art and Earthworks as belonging to an earlier group of male artists, despite them also being her contemporaries, peers, and fellow travelers.

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