Observatory Design Competition


Now Closed - sign up to the Newsletter for latest competition announcements


The structure of ‘The Observatory’ will be determined through a design competition open to teams of architects and artists across the UK and Internationally.  


The nature of the competition will require architecture practices to demonstrate effective partnerships and involvement with artists as part of their design process.  The teams may also include engineers and students artists and architects.


The design brief sets out the requirements for a ‘structure’ that will provide shelter for an artists to work in. As the structure will move location up to 3 times it will need to be demountable and cable of being easily moved on a lorry and potentially be re-configurable to suit the needs and geography of the new site.


The use of a competition format will lead to a broad range of new and possibly unique ideas.  It will help push the experimental nature of the project and encourage teams to explore new materials and ways of creating temporary, movable structures.



For more information and updates please join our Mailing List



mailing list

Short LIST:

Congratulations to the following 5 teams on being short-listed for the Observatory Project.  We received some some really great entries and the judges very much enjoyed looking through all of the proposals. Interviews and a selection of the winning design will take place on 3rd April.

SDNP_logo.jpg 2013-8-12-11:46:19

Plus a special mention for the student design by: Dhaval Hasmuclal, Ruth Evans, Kalpesh Parbat from Arts University Bournemouth.  The judges were intrigued by both the approach and the presentation of the panels.



We are delighted to announce the following teams have been long-listed for the Observatory Competition. There has been a fantastic response to the competiton and we are grateful for the hard-work everyone has put into their fabulous ideas.


The images below show only one of the teams entry boards. Please click on the image to see an enlarged image and team members names.




The Competition has now closed and we are starting to long-list entries.




We are delighted to announce the judging panel:



A long-list of entries will be unveiled at Winchester Guildhall, Courtyard Gallery on 3rd March and will be exhibited until 7th March.


Judging of entries will take place on 7th March and an announcement of the 5 shortlisted entries will be announced shortly afterwards in Building Design and on BBC Online. 


The exhibition of entries will then tour all 4 locations for the Observatory during March, before a final announcement of the winner is made in the first week of April.


Exhibition dates and Venues:


The Courtyard, Guildhall Winchester:

Mon 3rd Mar (from 12 noon) to Friday 7th Mar


Lymington Town Hall, Avenue Road, Lymington:

Mon 10th Mar (from 12 noon) to Fri 14th Mar


Salt House, West Bay, Dorset:

Sat 22nd Mar 10 - 5pm (only)

(kindly hosted by DIVAcontemporary)


Tamar Valley Centre, Gunnislake, Cornwall:

Mon 24th Mar (from 12 noon) to Fri 28th Mar

(kindly hosted by River Tamar Project)












Obsworkatory: Pre-Competiton Workshops

Obsworkatory Weekend, Nov 2013 - Outcomes:

As part of the emerging Observatory Project and development work, SPUD organized an intensive workshop weekend called the OBSWORKATORY.  The weekend, held at Artsway in the New Forest, was attended by over 30 artists, architects, students (from AUB and Portsmouth Universities) and other professionals.  The aim of the workshop being to explore potential sites for the Observatory structure and to unpack two key questions:


‘What is the nature of an artist residency?’
‘What is the Observatory and what does it need to do?’


Day One:

Participants visited sites at Lymington Salt Marshes and Winchester Science Centre (at the Western end of the South Downs).  The weather was wild and stormy and certainly made people think about siting a suitable structure in extreme conditions and the level of protection from the elements it would need to afford the artists.  The site visits looked at the physical, geographical, environmental and social opportunities and limitations.  The day very quickly generated intense discussions and ideas soon began to formulate.  It was clear that both sites offered really exciting opportunities for both interdisciplinary collaboration, the residencies and audience engagement.


Day Two:

The day was spent working in teams in the gallery spaces at Artsway.  This was a chance to reflect on the site visit and begin to explore the idea of residency and the needs of the artist and to begin to understand how the Observatory structure might facilitate this.  Stimulation conversation emerged around the actual idea and concept of ‘observation’- how could the structure facilitate, inhibit, enhance or restrict this notion.  There was also much discussion around the practicalities including access, costs, location and flexibility.


Key Outcomes from the weekend were (in no order of priority):


Shelter: providing protection, comfort, basic requirements, and the need to be flexible and usable seasonally


Permeability: providing an interface with an audience; allowing both physical and electronic access; creating a level of privacy and security to allow the artists to work


Observation: that this could be more than just visual and include sound, touch, temperature and even smell. Should the structure determine the views, orientation and opportunities for observation?  Observation should be seen as up and down, outwards and inwards, macro and micro


Landmark: To create a beacon, identity, icon.  The structure to have a visual impact and that scale, texture and colour should all be considered.  It should have a functional and aesthetic balance.  That it should work with the landscape.


Personalisation: should the artist(s) be allowed to change the structure/space on a temporary or permanent basis.  Should the interior of the structure ne refreshed after each residency or allowed to evolve.  Can the artists leave a mark/trace on the structure?  Is there a budget for each location that allows the artists to physically change and personalize the space?  Is this achieved through modular components that can be added or removed?


Energy: What renewable could be incorporated?  Solar and wind – opportunities for sponsorship.  What basic needs do the artists have.  Can the use of renewables reference local issues.  How will warmth and lighting be provided during colder, darker months?


Public interaction: When and how will this happen?  Will it be according to a schedule/programmed activities?  What degree of privacy is provided for the artist and can there be a system for announcing the artist is at ‘home’ – a flag for example.  How are incidental visits managed, ensuring an unplanned level of public access.


Movement:  the ability for the structure to turn and orientate to the sun, prevailing winds etc.  Can this also help facilitate power generation.  Is this entirely flexible or set within fixed parameters (i.e. timed, measured etc).  This also needs to consider the relocation of the structure and the costs and issues related to this.


Structure: could be movable, flexible, made up of multiple structures, mobile and transportable, containing multiple zones, created from new materials, incorporating sustainable/recycled materials, able to fit on a specified trailer size, through access gates and under road bridges etc.


Residency:  a call for all 12 artists made at the start of the programme. The finalization of artists agreed for Year 1 with potential amendments for Year 2. Should artists run consecutively in each location or could a group of artists collaborate and set their own timings/usage over a 6 month period.  Can more than one artist use the space simultaneously.  Opportunities fro showcasing work at the end of each 6 month location through partnerships with local galleries and other key locations.  All the residencies contribute to a final conference event and publication.  Provision of programmed on-sight workshops and activities. What parameters, if any, will be set in terms of the extent of the area that the artist can observe?

This short film gives a flavour of the Obsworkatory weekend from the participants point of view.


Created by Ricky Evans and Phil Smith

"Just got over the great experience that you have provided for us during this weekend. I really enjoyed being part of such a thought provoking workshop. The opportunity was a great chance to talk to like minded people with strong creative vision."

The abve images were created by artist Kimvi Nguyen as part of the Obsworkatory weekend.  Kimvi uses found objects to create quick drawings, which are then captured using photography before being reconfigured

"...thanks to all the team for a very engaging and thought provoking weekend. I am currently reflecting on some of the issues and the creative contexts in which practitioners might be able to co-exist in the landscape through the intervention of an architectural structure."