Gemma, private observatory, New Hampshire (USA)


Gemma, Private observatory, New Hampshire (USA)

The development of international observatory projects that bring together prestigious scientists working with gigantic telescope assemblies and located in the most isolated mountains of the planet cannot get the better of amateur observatories. There are still enthusiasts out there who, like 19th century amateur astronomers, devote their lives to observing the distant stars.






Architect: Anmahian Winton Architects
Technique: VMZINC® Flatlock Panel, Surface aspect: QUARTZ-ZINC®


Passion for the stars naturally leads the contemporary astronomer far from the city and urban areas. Gemma Observatory, is not located on a high mountain plain in Chile or Hawaii. Rather, it is situated on summit in a sparsely populated area of New Hampshire, at the centre of a dark landscape approximately 5 kilometres in diameter, protected from light pollution. 

The architects aimed to disturb this natural environment as little as possible, which explains why their observatory does not present the traditional dome image associated with this type of programme.   Here, no hemispheric mobile dome and, in a sense, no building either. Instead, Gemma Observatory imitates the natural blocks of granite located on the site. The building’s multiple facets defi ne a volume that seems to be the product of geological folds and collisions. The zinc cladding strengthens its integration with the environment: its grey colour echoes the surrounding rocks, the rows of fl atlock panels regularly change 52direction in response to the topography. 

This approach continues even in the observation tower featuring rhomboid volumes, whose precision mechanism makes it possible to easily turn the monolithic block. In the off position, the “dome” faces south. An opening in the metal skin holds a window that reveals the North Star, like a compass for the astronomer, placed at the intersection of telluric forces and the infi nity of the universe.