Kielder Observatory, Northumberland

    This building was the winner of an RIBA competition held in 2005 that attracted over 230 entries.

    The site, on Black Fell in the Kielder Forest, was chosen for its remoteness and consequent lack of light pollution. The resulting building is a physical manifestation of an absolute commitment to sustainable construction and “off-grid” technologies. Site conditions were therefore challenging; delivery of materials to the site was via a crude un-made track; the slope of the site was too steep for a piling rig, which ruled out the preferred foundation solution of driven timber piles; and there were no existing services to the site.

    Accommodation includes two rotating telescope enclosures with manual rack and pinion drive mechanisms, a warm room and an observation deck. The building is autonomous for all servicing needs: power is generated by a wind turbine and photo-voltaics; there is a wood-burning stove to provide heat; and the toilet is composting.

    The all timber structure comprises a braced frame beneath floor level. The super-structure incorporates stressed-skin panels to achieve large roof overhangs and cantilever portions of the rotating turrets.

    Client: Forestry Commission
    Architect: Charles Barclay Architects
    Project Value: £350k

    Winner: RIBA Regional Award 2009
    Winner: Civic Trust Award 2009

    Images courtesy of Charles Barclay Architects

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