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High Commendation

An Ark for Endangered Atmospheres

Part 2 Project 2014
Justin Cawley
University of Sydney Sydney Australia

This project is a focused investigation into the potential of spherical form for architecture. The sphere is a recurrent figure in architectural history that has transcended all major architectural movements, yet remains under-theorised as a type. In this project the sphere-building was approached as an historical artefact and architectural type in order to construct an idea of ‘sphereness’. An investigation into a history of spheres in architecture and broader scientific and aesthetic cultures was used to understand how spherical forms have been appropriated within the architecture discipline and a broader cultural milieu.

The recurrent relationships between spherical buildings and themes of interiority, cosmology, geography and ideality informed the development of the building program: an Ark for Endangered Atmospheres.

An Ark for Endangered Atmospheres

The Ark for Endangered Atmospheres is a microcosmic architecture for the preservation and resuscitation of climate and weather history. The Ark takes the form of an 88.6 metre diameter sphere on Observatory Hill, one of the most prominent sites along Sydney Harbour.

The Ark’s shape emerged from a rigorous design-based investigation into spherical form. The project pioneers a new model for spherical architecture: it is formalised as an aggregated sphere, composed of ten discrete forms. These forms were derived from the geometric properties of spheres and circles. The forms each house autonomous microcosms which, when aggregated, behave as cogs within the Ark machine.


The project represents a possible medium through which architecture can engage the final frontier for terrestrial preservation: the preservation of atmospheres. It is a cry for novel theories of preservation and radical environmental politics.

In an age of doomsday desperation, the Ark is mobilised as a panacea for the climate crisis. Its immodest ambition is the formation of a theatre for new optimisms, a machine for new apophenias and a safe house for new atmospheres.

Justin Cawley

François Blanciak
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