Gemma Observatory

PrizeWinner in Architectural Design / Green architecture, Winner in Architectural Design / Institutional Architecture
Firm LocationCambridge, United States
CompanyAnmahian Winton Architects
Lead ArchitectAlex Anmahian, AIA & Nick Winton, AIA
Design TeamAnmahian Winton Architects: Alex Anmahian AIA, Nick Winton AIA, Project Manager: Mazen Sakr Team: Anika Gramsey, Travis Williams

Gemma Observatory is molded by its surroundings,
integrating environmental, geological, and celestial
influences into a nexus connecting earth and sky.

Sustainability imperatives directly reflect the Observatory’s
pristine setting in the New Hampshire mountains. Charged
by a remote photovoltaic array, it operates completely off
the grid and employs operationally efficient assemblies that
are long-life and maintenance-free.

Gemma’s architectural form developed as a reflection of its
surroundings. Beginning as a rectangular structure with an
observation turret, one corner pulls to an acute angle,
pointing northeast toward the White Mountain National
Forest. The building’s faceted shape is a continuation of the
site’s landform, and includes a terraced concrete walkway
that emerges from the summit’s granite outcroppings and
connects to the gravel drive. Metal cladding was chosen for
its capacity to transfer solar heat gain, facilitating nighttime
sky observation. It is patterned to integrate the site’s
irregular topography with the building’s geometry, and its
dimension, color, and patina evoke a material relationship to
the austere environment.

Finally, the observation turret’s corner window frames
Polaris when the turret is locked into the southern cardinal
position. The manifestation is complete, as functional and
abstract merge in a unique architectural expression.