A Place to Unlock the Secrets of the Universe
When the Calgary Centre arm of the Royal Astronomy Society of Canada (RASC) first embarked on finding an highly specialized architect for Alberta’s first urban public observatory, they consulted with a leading expert in the astronomical community for a recommendation. Bill Peters, past President and CEO of Telus Spark and Alberta Museums Association, was quick to suggest Kasian.
Our team’s understanding of the night sky and how to design the best observatory experience has been fine-tuned over decades of study, designing planetariums and observatories around the world. We were immediately brought on board by RASC, bypassing the standard RFP process.
RASC searched for the perfect location to host the observatory for years before settling on Ralph Klein Park. Located southeast of Calgary, the park’s lack of light pollution and its locality provides unfettered viewing access to the night sky.
The RASC Observatory in Ralph Klein Park is set to open in fall 2024 – just in time for visitors to observe NASA’s Artemis II moon mission, scheduled for November 2024.
Observatory design presents unique challenges. The temperature outside the observatory must be the same as it is inside, otherwise air disruption will occur and distort the viewing experience. Therefore, the design needs to replicate the outside environment as much as possible while still providing sufficient protection against natural and unnatural predators including theft, snow, rain, and the inherent harshness of a brutal winter climate.
Accommodating for the use of personal portable telescopes for RASC members and the general public was also a crucial requirement in need of a customized solution.
Today, people have a heightened appreciation for worlds beyond our own. Space travel has taken a strong foothold, and this is why we are seeing an increase in planetarium and observatory projects. Kasian is an undisputed leader in this growing field.”
A key priority was finding the right remote location at Ralph Klein Park. We sought an area unaffected by light pollution and that would not interrupt the natural flow of the park, a topography that would not require any type of significant manipulation.
Designing for an optimal immersive experience required taking stock of the positioning of the observatory in relation to the broader astronomical perspective. This involved ensuring unobstructed views of the low horizon to the west, south, and east, while working upwards from the base of the Big Dipper to the north.
Small observatories like this, historically, are very functional looking in appearance with little emphasis on external aesthetic. Our team worked hard to design, not only a high-performing observatory but also an architectural jewel on the landscape.
A gently curved roof combines elegant form with purposeful functionality. We designed a roll-off roof with mechanisms that will allow it to be easily moved in winter conditions, without any change to the differential temperature. The walls of the observatory are as low as possible, ensuring viewing planes of the telescopes are not impeded.
The observatory houses two highly advanced telescopes, erected on large, deep concrete pillars to prevent any vibrations that would warp the view of the night sky. A storage facility will stow portable telescopes that can be used by the public on the 1100 SF viewing terrace that boasts unobstructed views and a secondary way for visitors to take in the splendour of the cosmos.
The wall of the observatory extends to create an entry portal, which also serves as the signage location. The sidewalk leading to the observatory is the same width as the entryway, providing visitors an incredibly powerful entrance experience reminiscent of entering another realm or world.
Recent decades have ushered in a growing fascination with the universe and what lies beyond the boundaries of our planet and solar system. The RASC Observatory at Ralph Klein Park gives the primary and secondary education systems, astronomy clubs, and the public at large the opportunity to explore the cosmos and feed this collective curiosity.
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