The Observatory: The Study and The Workshop
In Brief

SPUD (Space Placemaking and Urban Design)

Winchester Science Centre, Lymington Salt Marshes, Mottisfont Abbey Hampshire, 
Buckler’s Hard, New Forest National Park.

Construction value: 

January 2015

"A look in and a look out for artist and audience" 

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.

Four architectural assistants from FCBStudios (Charlotte Knight, Ross Galtress, Mina Gospavic and Lauren Shevills) together with Devon-based artist Edward Crumpton won a competition to create a structure that could house multi-disciplinary artists and directly engage with the public. They responded to the brief by creating two rotating wooden structures:

  • The Study: a private and weather-tight artist’s studio.
  • The Workshop: a space for the artist to present their work and encounter the public in.

The team was inspired by the geometric forms of Sol de Wit and a 15th century painting Saint Jerome in His Study in which the viewer looks into the framed space of the artist, with a landscape framed beyond.

With these ideas in mind, 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.

Dark charred timber panels, created using a Japanese technique called Shou Sugi Ban form the external cladding. This richly textured, outer layer contrasts with the smooth lighter woods used inside the cabins. Edward Crumpton’s knotted and tarred marlin rope screen adds further decorative detail that will weather beautifully over time.

A wood-burning stove provides heat, the solar panel on the roof is enough to power a light bulb and a laptop, and rainwater harvesting supplies the artist’s sink with water.

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

Watch short films of the resident artist experiences on location

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"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
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The Revolving Studios
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Stop-motion film of the revolving studios on location at Winchester Science Centre.

Watch video
Selected Awards
"We were impressed by the imaginative response to the brief... and by the provision of much-needed research into the durability of charred timber." Wood Awards 2015

2016: Stephen Lawrence Prize: Shortlist

2016 RIBA South Award

2016 Civic Trust Award: Pro-Tem: Winner

2016 Architects' Journal Small Projects Award: Readers’ Choice: Winner

2015 Wood Awards: Best Small Building: Winner

2015 Civic Trust Award: Regional Finalist

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