Grundriss Eingangsebene

Kielder Observatory, Northumberland

Observatory / Competition
Kielder Water & Forest Park Development Trust and Northumberland National Park Authority
250 sqm

To create an astronomy building in the fabulous landscape of Northumberland is a fascinating challenge. The task is to bring science alive for ordinary people.

Science and especially astronomy were intriguing but also unearthly in all historical eras. They became romantic characters for ordinary people. Educated people were fascinated by the unknown secrets of the universe. But on their way to a new awareness, they also had to face the sometimes dreary and tiring routine of everyday work. Our main interest is to give the right expression to what everybody imagines about the mystical thing that is going on in an observatory.

The requirement for an obstacle-free horizon, and the desire to place the building amongst the trees of the dark forest, results in the 15m high building with its 2 domes at the top. 15m relates to the maximum height to which the trees will be allowed to grow.

An enclosed and heated room with six work stations – two of them equipped with computers - is located at ground level. Wheelchair users have unhindered access to this room. From here, you have access to the observation platform at the top of the building. The stairs and platform are supported by an insitu concrete structure textured by rough timber shuttering.

Timber fins, made out of Spruce, enclose the secure area for scientists, including the heated room, storage space, toilet, utility room and place for generator and battery bank. A refuge for amateur astronomers and  walkers is also enclosed by this wooden screen. It is open to the lower observation platform, where amateur astronomers are provided with electrical connections. Whinstone is proposed for the floor of the platform and the plinth of the building.

Marc Hensel