Rainbow Bright


May is the perfect time for a quick, afternoon getaway.

Although there is plenty to do in Taos all summer long, beginning with the merry month of May, the warmer weather and longer days, beckon many of us out of doors to explore new horizons. This one includes a drive with breathtaking vistas, and a chance to explore a new town to boot!

The Dwan Light Sanctuary is a perfect destination for day trippers looking for a little peace and quiet; moments of reflection away from the fray of the everyday, along with more rainbows you’re likely to see anytime, anywhere!

Located on the campus of the United World College in nearby Las Vegas, New Mexico,  the Dwan Light Sanctuary uses prisms instead of windows to transform the light that enters the building into a lattice of rainbows.

This multi-purpose, peaceful and serene space was created by Virginia Dwan for meditation, reflection, and/or spiritual/religious practice. Rejecting a singular purpose that would make the sanctuary less welcoming for some, the Sanctuary allows visitors to turn the stark white space into their own imaginative escape.

The Dwan Light Sanctuary was designed by Virginia Dwan,  Charles Ross (solar spectrum artist), and Laban Wingert (planner-architect) and opened on October 25, 1996. The DLS serves the UWC-USA campus and the public as a refuge from the “pace, conflicts, and anxieties of daily living.”

The site itself, was selected to capitalize upon the spectacular northern New Mexico light. The orientation and geometry of the building are derived from its alignment to the sun, moon, and stars. Projecting from a circular core are two apses each containing six large prisms mounted in sloping windows to capture light rays from sunrise to sunset.

Interacting with the rainbow spectrums cast from the windows are spectrums from twelve prisms mounted in the roof that form broad ribbons of pure color. These ribbons move with the revolution of the earth. Lunar spectrums can be seen on full moon nights.

A third apse, facing north, houses a window which frames trees and sky during the day and the North Star at night. A line parallel to the axis of the earth goes from the center of the floor through the center of the North Star window.

The circular part of the building is 36 feet in diameter and reaches 23 feet in height. The floor dimensions represent solar and lunar proportions.

The open layout is completely unadorned save for the giant prisms built into the ceiling and apse of the building. With no other decor  to distract the eye, visitors can just “be” or watch the rainbows that project onto the walls and floors as the sunlight passes into the room.

Many universities offer quiet rooms and study halls, but perhaps none so artfully mindful or forward thinking as the Dwan sanctuary.  

The Dwan Light Sanctuary is located on the United World College-USA campus in Las Vegas. While the campus is generally closed to the general public unless the college hosts events billed otherwise, you can  visit the Dwan Light Sanctuary by stopping at the Welcome Center where campus security officers will provide directions and an access key.

There is no charge for spending time in the space, although donations are accepted at the Welcome Center.

The Dwan Sanctuary is open daily from 6:00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m. Please check in at the Moore Welcome Center when you arrive on campus.

For more information on Las Vegas and the Light Sanctuary, please see the sites linked below.





All images stock files