Charles Barclay Architects have been named the winners of the Kielder Partnership and RIBA (Royal Institute of British Architects) Kielder Observatory competition. The London-based architects saw off nearly 230 worldwide entries.
The winning design has been likened to the 'deck of a ship sailing above the Kielder landscape'. It's planned that eager astronomers will be able to visit the observatory at its rugged hilltop location on Black Fell in rural Northumberland (North East England) in late 2006. Kielder has been recognised as one of the best places to view the stars in the United Kingdom due to its pitch-black and pollution-free skies.
The development of Kielder 'Observatory' is being funded by the Northumberland Strategic Partnership and the Northern Rock Foundation with support from the RIBA (Royal Institute of British Architects) and Arts Council England. Once completed, the unique facility will be used by specialist and amateur astronomers, scientific researchers and as a learning resource for education workshops – it's anticipated the construction costs of this project will be £125K.
Sarah Wigglesworth, RIBA Architectural Advisor to the Observatory project said: "The winning scheme is a simple, clear and logical response to the brief and effortlessly does everything required of it. The designers showed subtle insight into what was needed to make this an exciting yet robust setting for viewing the stars. This is a laconic proposal that positions itself in contrast to the landscape while also being at one with it. The addition of this interesting new Observatory at Kielder adds to the remarkable (and growing) collection of inspired commissions undertaken by the Kielder Partnership."
Peter Sharpe, Kielder Partnership's Art & Architecture Curator, said:
"We faced a hard task selecting a winner from the many innovative schemes put forward. After much deliberation, we unanimously chose a winner whose enthusiasm was evident from the start and whose proposal represents the strongest combination of innovative design and essential practicality that will be an absolute necessity for those who will use the observatory once it is complete.
"We are all looking forward to working with Charles Barclay Architects in the months ahead."
The Kielder landscape already hosts: James Turrell's "Skyspace", Kielder Belvedere (Softroom) and the Minotaur maze (Nick Coombe & Shona Kitchen).
Chairman of the Kielder Partnership, John Cuthbert, Managing Director of Northumbrian Water, said: "The announcement of a winner for the Kielder Observatory competition is a key milestone for the Kielder Partnership's art and architecture programme, illustrating how well creative projects can be developed to provide facilities that directly support existing users of the Kielder environment."
Kielder Water and Forest Park is one of the most ambitious travel and tourism destinations in Europe. With its forests stretching to the horizon and the jewel of Kielder Water at its centre, almost half a million annual visitors come to enjoy the breathtaking scenery and holiday activities. The award winning Kielder Partnership has achieved major global recognition for commissioning daring pieces of artwork that both challenge and complement its stunning environment.
"We are exhilarated to have won the competition for the observatory at Kielder and acknowledge the input of our co-collaborators, particularly the astronomer in residence at Marlborough College, whose name is also Charles Barclay! It is an honour to be entrusted with the latest of a series of interesting commissions by the Kielder Partnership and we relish the challenge of designing an architectural piece that is resonant in its wild setting yet fulfils a technically demanding brief," said Charles Barclay of Charles Barclay Architects.
Charles Barclay Architects will work closely with the Kielder Partnership team to devise a rigorous development and testing programme to ensure the project's deserved success. Once completed, this rigorous development and testing programme will form the basis of a planning application to progress the project on the Black Fell site.