An exploration of creative practice, engaging with an audience and the experience of landscape.

The Observatory
Architectural Copyright FCBSStudios

The Observatory is a mobile artist studio and workshop designed to encourage interaction between artists and their audience, through a blurring of public and private and inside and outside spaces.

The two structures were conceived as The Study: a private and weather-tight artist’s studio and The Workshop: a space for the artist to present their work and encounter the public in.
The Observatory frames the artist’s space inside and its surrounding landscapes outside. Artist or audience can rotate the buildings, which like telescopes, can face new points of interest – a nod to the coastal defence ‘lookout’ structures often found along the British coastline.

Key Information

Sector: Arts & Culture

Client: SPUDworks

Location: New Forest

Completion: January 2015

Size: 16 sqm

An off-grid artists studio for any site

The Observatory occupied four locations across the South of England over a two year period from 2015, giving twelve artists the opportunity of a two-month residency each.

The Study is powered by a solar panel on the roof and heated by a wood burning flue, whilst The Workshop collects and filters rainwater to supply the artist with fresh water for washing paints and fabrics.

The Observatory is now located at spudWORKS in the New Forest and continues to host artists on short term residencies. So far, the studios have hosted 52 artists and they have received over half a million people visitors.

This is a great example of architecture and art engaging the public. The client and architect achieved much with a low budget and many constraints and the result is playful, creative and much more than just a pavilion or folly.

RIBA South Awards, Judges’ comments

Shou Sugi Ban charred timber

Fire treated wood for protections against the elements

The charcoal drawings of artist Edward Crumpton inspired the use of charred timber in The Observatory.

Dark charred timber panels, created using a Japanese technique called ShouSugi Ban form the external cladding. This richly textured, outer layer contrasts with the smooth lighter Accoya woods used inside the cabins.


Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios
Edward Crumpton
Structural Engineer
S&S Construction

FCBStudios Team Leads


RIBA Regional Award
Civic Trust Award
Architects' Journal Small Projects Awards Readers Choice
Wood Awards