Gemma Observatory

Architect: Anmahian Winton Architects

Location:  Central New Hampshire

Category: Up to $1.5m in construction costs (category two)

This astronomical observatory rejects the traditional dome in favor of a synthesized architectural form, emphasizing the observatory’s aesthetic relationship to its stark geographic context.

aw-arch.com

This private astronomical observatory is located in the mountains of central New Hampshire on a site characterized by gray granite outcroppings. Gemma’s siting, form, and materials are rooted in the practical requirements of minimizing building movement and dissipating heat gain, and in symbolic relationships to both celestial and environmental landmarks. The design rejects a traditional dome in favor of a synthesized architectural form, providing more usable space and emphasizing the observatory’s aesthetic relationship to its stark geographic context. Patterned zinc cladding integrates the site’s irregular topography with the building’s geometry. Its dimension, color, and patina evoke a material relationship to the austere environment. A helical stair leads from the cantilevered entry canopy to a fissure in the cladding that opens onto the exterior observation deck. Continuing, it arrives at the primary viewing platform inside the faceted turret, whose corner window frames Polaris when locked in the southern cardinal position.

Additional information

General contractor: Patriot Builders

Structural engineer: RSE Associates, Inc

Technical motion engineer: Gillespie Corp.

Rotating rail mechanism: THK

Metal installer: Crocker Architectural Sheet Metal Co., Inc.

Steel: Quinn Brothers Iron Works

Jury

Jean Dufresne, AIA (Chair), Space Architects + Planners, Chicago

Richard Fernau, FAIA, Fernau + Hartman Architects, Berkeley, California

Joyce Hwang, AIA, Ants of the Prairie, Buffalo, New York

Jack Travis, FAIA, Jack Travis FAIA Architect, Bronx, New York

Kulapat Yantrasast, wHY Los Angeles, Culver City, California

Image credits

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Anmahian Winton Architects and Client

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Anmahian Winton Architects and Client

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Anmahian Winton Architects and Client

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Anmahian Winton Architects and Client

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Anmahian Winton Architects and Client