Allies and Morrison Architects complete the National Maritime Museum in London
The National Maritime Museum represents an ensemble of important historic buildings set within an iconic landscape, the whole comprising the
Greenwich World Heritage Site. The project for the Royal Observatory in
Greenwich Park encompasses the restoration and upgrading of the South
Building, a new planetarium and the redesign of the landscaping and
visitor route through the museum. This exciting new development responds
to the diverse demands of planetarium audiences, education groups and
site visitors whilst opening up the south half of the Royal Observatory site.
A new 118 seat planetarium has been inserted in the centre of the site.
Access to the auditorium is at lower ground level through a spacious new
foyer. The Peter Harrison Planetarium is housed in a cone whose geometry
reflects key astronomical concepts in its relation to the space. Above round
this is manifested as a tilted bronze cone aligned with the north star at
51.5°. The disc cut at 90° through its apex is parallel to the celestial
equator. This plane is clad in layers of reflecting glass in which the space
of the passing sky is revealed.
The cone is constructed from 250mm concrete to keep out sound, which
is clad in an 8mm thick phosphor bronze carapace. The metalwork was
prefabricated in Gateshead then brought to site in 18 segments, where
it was site welded to achieve the exact conic geometry of an astronomical
instrument. The final bronze finish has been achieved by layers of
patination, a technique usually applied to bronze sculptures, which will
get richer over time.