The building forms the fourth edge to an incomplete square of classical and picturesque monuments on the plateau of Calton Hill. It projects its main exhibition spaces onto and out of an existing promontory overlooking Leith, the Firth of Forth and Fife.
"Translated into statements about the real Universe, I am describing an origin in which space itself comes into existence at the big bang and expands from nothing to form a larger and larger volume. The matter and energy content of the Universe likewise originates at or near the beginning, and populates the Universe everywhere at all times. Again, I must stress that the speck from which space emerges is not located in anything, It is not an object surrounded by emptiness. It is the origin of space itself, infinitely compressed."
Paul Davies ‘The Day Time Began’ New Scientist 27/04/96
The building's twisting and folded form is a result of the nature of the main exhibition space. The exhibits are suspended from /mounted upon / projected onto, an aluminium clad spiral of twenty one self-similar plates (of between 8 and 20 metres width). The axis of the spiral originates from a point (origin) 1.7m above grade at the centre of the existing knoll, upon which the building is sited. The axis is set at 55.55 degrees from the horizontal, directly orientated toward the only constant point in the northern sky (Polaris). The plates that make up the spiral are each tilted inward towards the origin. This results in an ever twisting and folding ribbon that progresses from near horizontal to past vertical, like an open ended mobius; that, depending upon the individual that surveys it, appears to be opening out like a flower, in the direction of the sky, or closing in around one's head.
Special facilities associated with the exhibition are arranged as separate artefacts from the exhibition spiral; ‘tucked under the skirt’ of the spiral as it sweeps round (Planetarium) or spun off at a tangent (Lecture Theatre). The Lecture Theatre forms the ‘tail’, providing accommodation for secondary programmatic elements as well as a backdrop an external plaza.
Ben is a unique student who is at ease with himself and his subject. He is both self reliant and architecturally mature.
The Observatory and Space Science Centre became for Ben a vehicle for the synthesis of profound ideas about the nature of the Universe and orthodox architectural criteria.
The result is a beautifully choreographed spatial proposition accurately and appropriately sited. The programmatic distribution of space, circulation, structural engineering , construction and lighting are
extremely carefully thought out.
Ben's verbal and visual presentation to his examiners was excellent and it was unanimously felt that work of this distinction merited wider recognition.