The domical form developed in the artist's oeuvre from his desire to give depth to the hole, or void, a device that has occupied Goldsworthy's attention since early in his career. His decision to construct a dome with oculus on this site owes much to its northern orientation, which allows for a velvety black hole that no light can penetrate. Additionally, the dome acts as a geometric counterpoint to the angular site and building. The Buckingham Virginia slate, a highly reflective material, reinforces the effect of the light in the space, and alludes to the use of slate roofs in Washington. Goldsworthy's title refers to the architectural function of the material and of the dome. But by locating Roof on the ground, alternative meanings apply—a roof is also a home or a summit and the word "dome" derives from domus, Latin for house.
Roof (made possible by the Patron's Permanent Fund of the National Gallery of Art) is the second phase of a two-part project commissioned from Andy Goldsworthy by the Gallery. In the first phase, the artist created temporary works on the site of the quarry on Government Island, in Stafford, Virginia—the source of the original stones for the White House and Capitol. These ephemeral works were recorded in a photographic diary (sponsored by The Nancy Lee and Perry Bass Fund) and a suite of photographs, now in the Gallery's collection.
On view in the National Gallery's East Building, Ground Level.