Remote observatory on a mountain summit

This secluded astronomical facility is situated at the centre of a 'dark' landscape – no artificial light obstructs views of the stars
Story by: David Renwick
Like the surrounding rock formations, the observatory is angle, architecture, building, commercial building, daylighting, daytime, elevation, facade, line, roof, siding, sky, skyscraper, white, gray
Like the surrounding rock formations, the observatory is strong and resolute

Architect: Anmahian Winton ArchitectsAbout the project (text supplied): This private astronomical observatory is located on a remote mountain summit in central New Hampshire. The site is characterised by granite outcroppings and is situated at the centre of a three-mile radius “dark” landscape with very little light pollution to obstruct astronomical viewing.


You can see where the roof opens up architecture, building, daylighting, facade, house, property, real estate, roof, siding, gray, white
You can see where the roof opens up

Gemma’s design rejects a traditional dome in favour of a synthesised architectural form that maximises usable space and responds to the stark geographic context. Its continuously faceted shape reflects the surrounding landform, and terraced concrete platforms transition between the summit’s bedrock and the building foundation, knitting together natural and man-made landscapes. An unconventional pattern of lock-seamed zinc cladding mediates between the irregular site topography and the building’s geometry, reflecting Gemma’s orientation to both geological and celestial landmarks. Its dimension, colour, and patina evoke a material relationship to the grey granite outcroppings, while its heat transfer capability facilitates sky observation by minimising temperature differential distortion.

A slanted window almost looks like one of angle, architecture, building, commercial building, corporate headquarters, daylighting, daytime, facade, house, line, roof, siding, sky, structure, wall, gray
A slanted window almost looks like one of the bricks

As a counterpoint to the exterior and its context, the interior is lined with fir plywood, creating a haven of refuge and warmth from the harsh surroundings. The first floor is comprised of a research office, sleeping bunk, and warming room, and is super-insulated to prevent interior/exterior temperature differentials from creating heat eddies that would impede astronomical viewing. A helical stair leads from the cantilevered entry canopy to a fissure in the cladding that opens onto the exterior observation deck. Continuing, the stair arrives at the observatory’s primary viewing platform inside the faceted turret, its interior characterised by high ceilings, a larger telescope, and a camera array. A single person can rotate this turret by hand with an assembly typically used in high-precision manufacturing facilities, and a hand-cranked sliding hatch opens the telescope to the sky. A rift in the zinc cladding creates a corner window, framing Polaris when the turret is locked into the southern cardinal position.

Dec 05, 2017





Similar stories

Contemporary cultural centre contains spectacular atrium with contoured book shelving system reaching to the ceiling

The eyeball-shaped auditorium within Tianjin Binhai Library is framed by an eye-shaped aperture in the doub... Read more

Council of the European Union

This new headquarters for the European Union Council blends state of the art facilities with the best of contemporary European design Read more

The natural badminton court

This new badminton court represents the colours and textures of the nearby Youngsangang riverbank Read more

Latest books

Home Trends 3403

The design of our homes – new or renovated – should be an individualistic response to our lifestyle, family set-up and budget. But there are also common requirements we should all aim for – a balance of public and private space... Read more

Home Trends 3401

If you're designing a bathroom for a new home or renovating your existing one, you'll quickly discover how involved the process can be.It's not only the challenge of how to fit the different functional zones into the often limi... Read more

Home Trends 3307

While we might all have ideas for the home design that we want, consulting a good architect or designer will also open us up to other design possibilities that we haven't thought of.To help get you started on creating the home ... Read more