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Experiential Observations

Part 1 Project 2013
Alex Bodman
Liverpool John Moores University, UK
Responding to the ever present threat of climate change and varying weather patterns, this project re-imagines the former meteorological observatory on the slopes of the Scottish mountain, Ben Nevis. The project sets out to examine the ritualistic existence of the scientists, who are detached from modern society in much the same way as monastic settlements – living insular and autonomous lives based around study and research of their subjects.

The observatory, composed of four ‘walls’ which are cut into the landscape, becomes the place in Europe to study and observe European Windstorms. These are vast expanses of low pressure which travel across the North Atlantic Ocean into Western Europe – often hitting the U.K. and Scandinavian countries with force. They can be attributed with the severe flooding in the United Kingdom in recent years and are thought to be increasing in frequency in recent years. Ranked second in terms of worldwide destruction costs (behind the US cyclones no less) it is imperative to gather a large dataset and deep knowledge of the storms to increase prediction times of which storms are going to be damaging.

Taking on the language of protection, with reference to medieval walled cities and forts, the building’s form is composed of four elements connected through underground tunnels. These elements (or ‘walls’) structure the program of the observatory into a clear and understandable rhythm, whilst becoming a sculptural beacon in the landscape – which in winter months would seem deserted and ghostly. This plays with the romance of the environment and the lonely and solitary ambiance which the scientist would encounter.

As a counterpoint to the language of protection and the solidity of the granite walls (built from the extracts of the mountain), the building is filled with a delicate steel framework. This expresses the force of the weather on the external elements and complements the raw strength of the wide granite envelope.

Alex Bodman


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