The Observatory

The Observatory was won via national competition run by non-profit creative organisation SPUD (Space, Placemaking and Urban Design) for a temporary and mobile artist studio hosting 12 artist residences across the south-west of the UK for 2 years. The Observatory’s contemplative spaces and sharply framed views allows the artist, audience and landscape to connect outside of conventional gallery settings.

Interactive Mobile Installation

 
 

Concept

Inspired by Antonello da Messina’s ‘Saint Jerome in his Study’, the Observatory is divided into a weather-tight artist’s studio and a public shelter, each creating a single point perspective that frames views of the landscape beyond. With the help of a concealed 360-degree rotating mechanism, the gentle turn of a wheel moves the oversized viewing frame to respond to the landscape in each new location.

 
Observatory 01_Copyright Richard Battye.
 
 

Public Engagement : Art & Nature

Since 2015 the Observatory has explored many Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty along the UK’s south coast and drawn in over 1000 participants through 12 artist residencies and 24 workshops.

 
 

Materials

The Observatory is hewn from a palette of handcrafted materials: charred timber, tar, and hemp. Working in collaboration with artist Edward Crumpton, minimalist and robust interiors were designed to accommodate artists working in various media. Together we developed a highly textured and preserved timber cladding (in the Shou Sugi Ban method) to engage the public with the installation haptically. 

 
 

Fabrication & Transport

Pre-fabricated off-site in three months, the Observatory is transportable on a flatbed lorry truck and towed by a tractor to each location. The rotating steel bases contribute to a weight of 3.5 tons per cabin which negates the requirement for intrusive foundations to protect sensitive natural environments and reduce relocation costs. 

Where possible reclaimed materials are used to enrich the interior of the Observatory and reduce the embodied energy of its fabrication; including a reclaimed ceramic sink and a reclaimed stool for the artist in residence.

 
 

Take me for a spin!

Press play to watch the Observatory in action.

 

Carbon Neutral Design

Keeping the environmental impact of the off-grid Observatory to near zero, the structures are designed to be self-sufficient with little waste. Power is provided by a solar panel, negating the need for external power supply for light and electrical items. Rain water is collected for use by the artists, discharged into a holding tank and taken off site for disposal to protect sensitive habitats. The artists’ studio is heated with a marine charcoal burner, however the structures are able to rotate towards the sun to gain heat (as well as away from it) to provide shade when required. The charcoal released during burning is offset by the carbon sequestered during its life as a tree, therefore making the Observatory carbon neutral.

 
 

Project Information

Client : SPUD (Spaces Placemaking & Urban Design)

Team : Mina Gospavic, Charlotte Knight, Ross Galtress, Lauren Shevills for Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios
Contractor (shell & structure) : S&S Construction
Subcontractor (rotating base) :  Unitspark Ltd.
Status : Completed Jan 2015
Locations : Winchester Science Centre, Lymington Salt Marshes, Mottisfont Abbey, Buckler’s Hard, New Forest National Park.
Budget : £60,000

GIA : 11.5 msq