The Dwan Light Sanctuary

The Dwan Light Sanctuary

The Dwan Light Sanctuary (DLS) was designed by Virginia Dwan (conceptualizer and funder), Charles Ross (solar spectrum artist), and Laban Wingert (planner-architect) and opened on October 25, 1996.

Important Note: As of March 11, 2020 the Dwan Light Sanctuary is closed to the public until further notice. Repairs on the roof and electrical systems are ongoing. We will announce the re-opening of the building on this page when the repairs are complete.

The DLS serves the UWC-USA campus and the public as a refuge from the pace, conflicts, and anxieties of daily living. The site 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 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 revolving of the earth. Lunar spectrum 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.

Visiting The Dwan Light Sanctuary

The Dwan Light Sanctuary is located on the UWC-USA campus. While the campus is closed to the general public (except for announced events and scheduled, student-led tours), guests may visit the Dwan Light Sanctuary by first stopping at the Welcome Center where campus security officers will provide directions and an access key. Because the prisms are most impressive during full sunlight, optimal times to visit are late morning to early afternoon. There is no charge, although donations are accepted at the Welcome Center.


Special Note: The DLS will be closed for a memorial service from noon to 1 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 11.

"UWC keeps proving all the borders and walls wrong every day, we can live in peace and I live that reality every day."

— Abdulrahman Al Rayyis '18 - Iraq