Grassholme Observatory

With Gary Fildes for Northumbrian Water at Grassholme in Durham

Completed in June 2020, this is a permanent structure with a retractable roof, housing an astronomy telescope and ancillary equipment.

It was commissioned in 2019 by Northumbrian Water as a venue for night-time talks and classes.

We were invited to be involved in the conception of the project by Mosedale Gillatt Architects along with Development Consultant John Holmes and astronomer Gary Fildes who were instrumental in setting up the Kielder Observatory.

We were presented with the opportunity to develop a system that worked around many design criteria including a retractable roof that would allow the correct line of sight for the telescope as well as sufficient headroom when retracted, as well as all typical building regulations and DDA compliance requirements.

This was reviewed and developed collaboratively with Jenny Gillatt and the wider team.

Our proposal was a full steel frame clad in Siberian Larch featheredge board and lined internally with plywood, and supported on localised concrete pads. Structural calculations were provided by Albos.

The motorised roof is a lightweight framework which when open forms a sheltered waiting area under the larch strip brise soleil.

The pads and wider groundwork were performed by Gowland & Dawson.

Photography by Jack Storey