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The Community Observatory will house a single telescope that will be linked to a visual display in the adjacent Old Schoolhouse. It has to prevent ingress of water and wind but allow good ventilation to reduce likelihood of condensation. It should be able to be locked up but with a simple, easy to use, opening roof to allow good and wide visual access to the night skies. The building will be capable of taking 5 – 8 people at a time during use and have some storage. The budget for the building is small so ‘found’ and recycled materials are encouraged and while unheated the building may in part be insulated to offer some thermal protection to occupants. It is the intention of the client that the winning design will be constructed using locally available skills and labour; including if suitable those of the design team, to promote a community ‘ownership’ of the project. The observatory needs to have a good level approach and threshold to promote accessibility for the whole community.


There are some basic requirements for the siting of the telescope and the building that houses it. These are not onerous but should be taken into account when designing proposals. The telescope will be mounted on its own column fixed to a pedestal concrete column foundation, ideally sat on rockhead, but most importantly completely separate from the structure of the building. This prevents any vibrations in the structure from transferring to the telescope. T he telescope needs clear views of the eastern, southern and western skies from approx 10 degrees above the horizontal to vertical but also be capable of a 360 degrees of horizontal sweep. Any light source from the village or adjacent properties should be masked by the structure as much as possible to avoid light spill and maintain the eye’s adjustment to darkness. The roof mechanism needs to be robust and mechanically easy to use so that all members of the community can access and use this facility.

In Summary

Observatory building

approx size 20-25sqm

Storage approx size 12sqm

Parking minimum 6 spaces

The telescope that will be housed in

this observatory is a 10" (254mm) aperture f/4.8 SkyWatcher

Newtonian telescope

on HEQ5 mount

(seen on right).

A .dwg CAD site plan is available by registering for the competition.

See eligibility paragraph below.

Some helpful References (there are plenty of others too):


Kielder Observatory, Northumberland

Society for Popular Astronomy

NASA Student pages


Full or Part time students registered on any creative or design programme at Newcastle or Northumbria University (including Part 1 and 2 year out students) are eligible to enter this open design competition. Collaboration between students of different disciplines is encouraged but not proscribed (i.e. single designers are as welcome to enter as teams of designers/artists). Please email to register interest and be eligible to receive any clarification answers.

Site Description

The Old Schoolhouse sits above the village up a steep, winding road that can become impassable during the winter months. A dilapidated brick and timber shed currently stands at the rear of the Schoolhouse on the edge of a retaining wall, this is the identified site because of the slight elevation above buildings and uninterrupted access to the southern skies. The site and suggested areas for parking and hard standing for astronomers bringing their own telescopes to set up, can be seen on the Site Plan below.

Postcode for Sat Nav directions is NE47 9HR (This plan available as .dwg by registering, see above)

Aerial view of Schoolhouse and observatory site (circled)

below shed/observatory elevations


Part of the competition is to be creative and innovative about how far the available budget can stretch. The total spend should not exceed £20,000 (excluding VAT) but it is up to the entrant to suggest how that will be split between design, materials, build and any other part of the realisation process for the particular design offered. It is necessary to make a statement about the economy of the project in the written submission but this can take any form the entrant decides as long as it is clear and convincing.


Competition Launch 12 October 2015

Site visits 2pm 18 October 2015

Clarification Questions Deadline 22 October 2015

Entry Deadline Thursday 5 November 2015

Judging Panel meets to long list To be arranged

Long List Exhibition starts Saturday 14 November 2015

Winner Announced 30 November 2015

Design Developed Dec ember 2015/January 2016

Target Build on site February/March 2016 (tbc)

Judging Panel

Helen Ratcliffe, Allenheads Contemporary Arts (ACA) [Chair of Judges]

Annie Sanders/Bridget Kennedy, Allenheads Community Representative

Andy Lees, Scheme Manager, representing the North Pennines AONB Partnership

Jurgen Schmoll, Astronomer and Instrument Scientist, Durham University

To be advised, Design Adviser

Tim Bailey, Adviser to Panel (none voting observer)

Submission Requirements

(i) 1no. A3 sheet minimum (2no. A3 sheets maximum) to explain the proposal in drawings. These sheets can include sketches, formal drawings, renderings or photos of models.

(ii) A maximum of two sides of A4 text (Arial at 12pt) setting out design approach, outline budget, method of construction and delivery and how the whole project can be expected to benefit the local community.

(iii) Completed Application Form (attached to brief)

Each item must display clearly a Unique Number chosen by the entrant for identification in the form letter, letter, number, number, number e.g UY478, QA889, etc.

Entries are to be emailed to before 8pm 5th November 2015. Entries received after this time will be ignored.


A prize fund of £500 has been set aside by North Pennines AONB. The Judging Panel retain the right to award this prize fund as they see fit including to a single winner or a small number of ‘placed’ prizes.

In addition to the cash prize the winner (or winning team) will be employed on a single project basis attached to xsite architecture LLP to develop and realise the winning scheme. The terms of this employment will be agreed in light of needs of the winning scheme and the employment status of the winner.


All clarification questions should be directed to Tim Bailey on

Answers will be circulated to all the registered email addresses held at the time of circulation.


APPLICATION FORM Team Name (if applicable)  Unique Number  

Contact Name  

Degree course enrolled on  


Home Address  

Telephone No.  


If there are other members of the team list their names and Degree Course here



As part of a Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) award for their Allen Valley Landscape Partnership Scheme, the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty Partnership (AONB) has identified an opportunity to develop a Community Observatory project. Acting as an educational tool and introduction to science in the landscape the proposal is to establish a telescope position to take advantage of the dark skies over the village of Allenheads and run a student competition for the design and development of the protective building for the telescope and its outbuilding.

The observatory will be located at Allenheads Contemporary Arts (ACA at the Old Schoolhouse on the eastern hillside above Allenheads village centre. ACA run artist residencies and an educational programme and they would host and organise access to the Community Observatory as part of this programme. A site for the observatory has been identified and associated car parking and an area for setting up portable telescopes is also required as part of the scheme.

Design Competition for The North Pennines Observatory at ACA

The winners of the North Pennines Community Observatory design competition which is being built at ACA The Old Schoolhouse.

Studying architecture at Newcastle University. From left: Becky Wise, Katie Fisher and Noor Jan-Mohamed