Gemma Observatory

Prize Winner in Architectural Design / Institutional Architecture
Firm LocationCambridge, United States
CompanyAnmahian Winton Architects
Lead DesignerAlex 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.