Site and program
This studio will attempt to reclaim the experience of looking into the stars as a public endeavor. However, rather than creating a civic building in an urban context, we will examine the observatory as an object intertwined with landscape by day and as an architectural instrument that connects to the sky by night. As such, we will cede the advantages of radio wave telescopes to the multinational institutional partnerships that operate them and embrace the technology of the enthusiast and the amateur.
The ‘amateur scientist’ has an especially long tradition in England. Kielder Observatory, a modest structure commissioned following an international competition a decade ago, has embraced and supports this tradition. Sited in Northumberland’s Kielder Forest the observatory takes advantage of Northern Europe’s largest sky plane unpolluted by light. This striking landscape is the UK’s largest man-made forest and houses a provocative contemporary arts and architecture program with multiple site-specific interventions. These structures have been highly successful in drawing visitors from the curious to the obsessed to examine the sky.
Success has brought a need for more, which will be the charge of this studio. Students will design individual proposals for a new structure, an expanded observatory that will add to both the mission and ethos of Kielder Forest and Observatory. Special attention will be paid to the roof plane as an architectural element ripe for invention that engages the landscape under the sun and the sky under the stars.