Kielder Observatory

Author(s)

Project Description

Nomination, H.I. Feldman Prize

This project exploits the natural tendencies of an observatory: darkness and seclusion. Sited within the gridded trees of Keilder Forest, this observatory provides a quiet and discrete refuge for the amateur astronomer. Eight large rooms, each 11 meters in diameter, are clustered around a small interior court, protecting this space from the cold and wet climate. The entrance is from the northwest corner of the building and visitors descend first into an open room sunken into the slight slope of the hill. Galleries, warm rooms, and a café are accessed from this floor. In the northeast corner tower, the planetarium rests even further down into the landscape allowing for a research space and observatory above. Allowing the interior court to slip down into the landscape below, the dormitories and resident astronomer’s living quarters are raised above the landscape. There are no exterior windows flush to the outside façade, instead, light leaks into the interior between the overlap of the weathered wooden roof of the exterior and the cylindrical walls which wrap into the building. The moments of dislocation between the roof and interior wall also allow visitors to move into, out of, and between the different volumes. At the peak of each roof is a .5 meter skylight which allows direct light and moonlight to illuminate the upper space of the interior. The limited and controlled moments of light leaking into the interior provides the tenuous relationship between interior and exterior, light and dark, and astronomer and night sky.