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Anmahian Winton Architects, Gemma Observatory, New Hampshire

Focus on the stars: Gemma Observatory in New Hampshire

The Gemma Observatory in situated a landscape of granite outcrops at the centre of a "dark" zone, meaning it has little of the light pollution that would otherwise obstruct astronomical viewing.  In their design for the building, Anmahian Winton has dispensed with a traditional dome, coming up with a special asymmetrical shape that references the rugged surroundings. The observatory's unusual shaping also maximises useable space. A terraced concrete platform transitions between the natural bedrock and the building, plus the complicated pattern of galvanised panels on the façade is a reference to the irregular site topography.

In contrast to the exterior, the inside of the observatory is clad in spruce plywood. A special insulating layer has been included to prevent differences in outdoor and indoor temperature leading to warmth fluctuations and thus impeding astronomical viewing.  A helical staircase leads up to a small telescope on an exterior observation deck, and from there to a primary viewing room, situated above the lower deck and containing a larger telescope. A corner window opens up to Polaris for an unimpeded view of the northern pole star.

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