This looker is for looking- a new observatory built in Northumberland, the darkest place in England. Even though the computer has made images of the heavens accessible to everyone without all of the cold, tired and dark stuff that goes with amateur astronomy, there is still something romantic and absolutely wonderful about looking through the eyepiece of a telescope, knowing that the photon that just hit your retina travelled millions of miles for thousands of years.
Being way off grid, it is powered by a wind turbine and solar panels. Designed by Charles Barclay, Jonathan Glancey, architectural critic of the Guardian, describes it as "is a small wonder, a kind of wooden pier stretching over land. When the doors of the turrets concealing its telescopes glide open, it looks like a child's drawing of a warship. With its decks and galley, its largely timber and steel construction, and great views out across the waters of Kielder Forest, the observatory really does feel like a ship at sea - especially as night settles in and only the ghostly shrieks of barn owls remind you that you are a long way from tidal waters."
"Barclay's observatory is a happy balance between what appears to be little more than a simple, almost cartoon-like, timber gangway with some sheds on top and some fine technology inside, with the cranks and cogs needed for the telescope turrets sitting delightfully within the simple wooden walls, floors and ceilings. It is rather like being in an early Victorian steamship, especially in the dark, when the red lamps glow (red keeps light pollution to a minimum).."
Some institutions don't put much value on making science accessible to the public; they would rather sell their observatories for a quick hit of cash. But a new generation of astronomers will be inspired, freezing their butts on a cold English night, looking through these scopes. The building might just inspire a new generation of architects, too, into making green, sustainable gems out of what is usually a pretty institutional building type. ::Kielder Observatory reviewed by Jonathan Glancey in the Guardian via ::PSFK
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