Observatory in Northumberland

Here, in the darkest part of England, where the air is still unpolluted, the Kielder Partnership – an alliance of public and private bodies – held a competition to build an observatory. A temporary structure was designed to accommodate two telescopes and the relevant working spaces. The elongated, rectilinear volume stands on the ground at one end and is raised on columns above the slope at the other end. Set on top of the building at different heights are two rotating turrets that house the telescopes and afford an unimpeded view of the southern sky even at a minimal inclination of 5°. The telescope in the central turret can be operated by computer from the adjoining space. Scope is also provided for amateurs to set up their own telescopes on the open deck between the two turrets. In the end turret is a manually operated telescope on a raised platform, which is accessible via a circular ramp. In contrast to this advanced technology, the low-tech skin harmonizes with the landscape. Sitka spruce from the region was not strong enough to resist the great wind loads and the moments from the cantilevered roof. American Douglas fir was, therefore, chosen for the primary structure together with plywood sheeting and siberian larch cladding. Steel tie rods provide diagonal bracing. To avoid vibration, the steel columns for the telescopes are separated from the timber structure. Energy for operating the equipment is provided by a 2.5-kW wind turbine backed up by photovoltaic panels.
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