This private observatory is located at the end of a steep, half-mile gravel drive on a remote summit in central New Hampshire. The site is characterized by granite bedrock outcroppings and is situated at the center of a three-mile radius “dark” landscape with very little light pollution to obstruct astronomical viewing.
The observatory’s design rejects a traditional dome in favor of a synthesized architectural form expressed as an extension of the stark geologic context. An unconventional pattern of lock-seamed zinc cladding mediates between the irregular site topography and the building’s geometry. The choice of cladding—its dimension, color, and patina—engenders a material relationship to the gray granite outcroppings that characterize the summit.
As a counterpoint to the exterior and its context, the interior is lined with fir plywood, creating a haven of refuge and warmth from the harsh surroundings—a place for research, introspection, and even rest. A helical stair of plywood and steel pauses at a fissure in the cladding that opens onto an exterior observation deck. Continuing, the stair arrives at the observatory’s primary astronomical viewing platform inside a faceted turret. This platform is characterized by high ceilings and an oversized, sliding hatch that opens the telescope to the sky. A rift in the cladding creates an aperture at the corner of the turret, which frames Polaris when the turret is locked into the southern cardinal position.