Invoking the shape of myriad objects, this futuristic architectural design is shortlisted in an international contest to create a new observatory in Liverpool, England, reminding us that space-age proposals have a great way of stirring the imagination. Charged with reinventing the Mersey riverbank, Duggan Morris Architects‘ structure will supplant an obsolete radar tower with a luminous cathedral-like shell that offers unparalleled views of the heavens while keeping its environs in close consideration.
The plan for Duggan Morris’ observatory is composed of two elements – an event accommodating “bowl” and a daylight suffused “lamp” that will act as an observatory as well as a cultural beacon. The plan’s bipartite composition serves to create a flowing experience for visitors that incorporates both interior and exterior spaces, calling into consideration the structures’ relationship with the environment and with each other.
Like a still life or Helvetica type, the space between the two objects is every bit as important as the objects themselves. This spatial metaphor carries through to the design’s environmental impact as well. Duggan Morris states that “The Observatory will be required to meet high standards of sustainability, including using renewable energy sources. It must not impact negatively on the sites’ important nearby wildlife habitats, especially the foreshore.”
The tower’s svelte exterior will be constructed of sheets of steel-supported glass that are spun around a central core. Concrete “ribs” and “ligaments” offer support, and the team intends to incorporate a photo-luminescent material into the structure, “enabling it to glow without the need for artificial lighting. In this way the building becomes seasonal, responding to the quantity of light available and stored throughout the year.”
While the plan has garnered lots of press for its sustainable and carbon-neutral qualities, it has yet to be seen exactly how its energy claims will be realized. The Mersey Observatory website states that “the team have tried to limit the power requirements in the tower as much as possible. In terms of energy, they would use as many sustainable energy sources as possible in the visitor centre. Again they’ve mentioned the potential for tidal power, and the possibility for using water to power lifts. Duggan Morris suggest a subtle amount of light in the ‘lamp’, so as not to interfere with the nature reserve”.
Here’s to hoping that this enlightened observatory follows up on its promise and realizes those glossily rendered turbines!