GUATEMALA OBSERVATORY COMPETITION: A Didactic Bridge Between the Universe and the Local
The proposal for the Competition is based on the intention of expanding the narrow understanding of observatory into a didactic place by the construction of a public space and an architecture acting as an astronomical device, similar to the Jantar Mahar, the piazza-observatories buildings built in India along the Seventeenth Century. We believe in knowledge transmitted by the spatial experience and following the extended mind thesis, architecture as a tool for expanding the consciousness i.e. worlding.
The interaction between the piazza and the observatory building shows the planets, sun and other stars’ movement at a glance, allowing us to place them in the sky using the piazza space as a reference. The building acts as a giant solar gnomon and the piazza’s vertices hold a ring suspended in the center that permit us to place the celestial bodies. The piazza’s fixed coordinate system is an objective reference arrangement that is complemented through subjective references that people can place there for pointing significant moments of their lives. Stones, plaques, stakes or other informal objects are displayed on the piazza by the public, in an primitive act as exemplified by the essence in the Neolithic monument of Stonehenge.
The building of the observatory provides the piazza with a system of ramps open to the public that gives the possibility of understanding the piazza from outside. The ramps are accessed through an ascendant ritual movement that remembers the pre-Columbian ritual architectures, finishing in an open sky terrace without interfering with the spaces dedicated to the researchers.
For the building materiality, we expressly denied the technological look, foreign and impersonal, supporting the use of natural and local materials. Locally sourced and appropriated, the rammed earth and the wood are sustainable materials that also make manifest the link between human beings and earth, where it has its origin our curiosity for the world we inhabit. These colors and textures are the ones from our solar system.
The dome in the observation room is decorated with the drawings and colors of the giant barriletes (kites), a reference to the local culture. With this, we intend to close the circle that goes from the universality of curiosity to the local idiosyncrasy reflected in a specific corner of our planet’s customs and traditions.
The tower has a system of ramps that access to a terrace placed in its penultimate level, from where we can observe the didactic space of the piazza and the sky.
The piazza is treated as a didactic place for the observation of the celestial bodies’ movements. It is a spherical surface where, due to the slope, it is harder to be far from the center, acting in this way as a gravitational space where the visitors are attracted to the center in which the building entry is placed.
Researchers have an independent access from their offices to the observatory room. Both programs are separated as much as possible for avoiding light contamination.
The main structure of the building works as a gnomon of a huge solar watch.
PLACE CELESTIAL BODIES
The visitor can identify the position of any celestial body in the sky through a circular gnomon suspended in the center of the piazza. The observer position in the square is identical to the celestial body position in the sky placed into the circular gnomon.
SOLSTICES AND EQUINOXES BENCH
A rhomboid bench placed at the entry of the building point through its vertices the noon of the four changing-season days in the year.
A skylight placed in the access tunnel to the piazza point with a light door in its interior the noon on September the 15th, which is Guatemalan independence day.
The visitors can place in the piazza space stones with inscriptions pointing their significant dates. The set of stones occupies the piazza as asteroids stopped in time.
SOME VIEWS from the didactic piazza space:
PLANS, SECTIONS and ELEVATIONS.
Collaborators: David Marroquin, Tanzil Shafique and Paco Mejias
Project presented to the Guatemala Observatory Competition October 2016