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The Land Observatory

Part 1 Project 2012
Simon Woodward
University of Greenwich, UK
The Land Observatory is a scientific building sited on a man-made island, called The Outer Trial Bank, in the wash. And is dedicated to monitoring coastal erosion. The man made island, which failed as an experiment to store fresh water within an rock and sand bund, lays 3.2km from the mainland.

Happisburgh is a village on the north Norfolk coast which has suffered considerable loss of land to the sea despite efforts to defend against it, there is now a policy of managed retreat and the village inhabitants are gradually moving away.

At the North Eastern Tip of the Wash is situated Hunstanton, a coastal town with a large population and a popular tourist resort. Hunstanton sits on top of Jurrassic cliffs which are being attacked by the sea and is gradually becoming as at risk as Happisburgh.

Hunstanton can be seen from the Outer Trial Bank, along with the complete panorama of the wash and views to the open horizon of the north sea.

The Land Observatory, sited in this extreme environment is like Scott’s Hut in the Antarctic; an outpost. Within the building are housed powerful telescopes which look deeply at the crumbling cliffs and coast line, they cross reference points on the landscape with fixed markers built onto the Outer Trial Bank.

In order to monitor the full panorama of the wash, the building must rotate. A cutting is made through the island to allow the sea to fill the central crater, at high tide the weight of the building is borne by the sea, and the building can be rotated by sculling with an oar from the building to push it gently in place. The whole building is supported on a steel trolley with guide wheels at the base.

Scientists living within the building will have to learn to adapt to life in the building, waking and working with the tides, and warming themselves in the heated bunks when it gets to cold, and maintaining the Samphire planted façade of the building and resmothering it with silt and clay, gathered when the tide goes out.

Simon Woodward


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