The Observatory: coming to the Tamar Valley in 2015/16

The aim of The Observatory is to create a space where artists and the public can explore their relationship to the river and the surrounding environment. It is an exciting project which is focused on rivers and waterways, our relationship to the land and water, and how this can be expressed through art. The Observatory will tour four sites in the South of England: Winchester Science Centre, Lymington Salt Marshes, the South Dorset Ridgeway, and the River Tamar. It will remain on the banks of the river for six months, offering three artists the opportunity of a two month residency to work in its unique structure and explore the changing river environment. People will be encouraged to approach the structure and interact with the artist, allowing for the dialogue between art and the landscape to embrace everyone in the local area. The site for the River Tamar stage of The Observatory tour is still to be confirmed.

The Observatory: winning design interior

The Observatory: winning design interior perspective

The Observatory design competition attracted entries from across the UK. The winning design came from a group of architects working for Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios and Devon-based artist Edward Crumpton. Taking the environment and sustainable materials for inspiration, the rotatable structure is made from an exterior surface of charred wood cladding, complex woven tarred marlin rope screens and subtle interior detailing. The project team are now working hard to raise the funding to make this innovative design a reality. The River Tamar Project will collaborate with our partners, SPUD, to bring The Observatory to the River Tamar.


Winning design team at work

The winning design team at work

The Observatory will create a unique and exciting sculptural and architectural structure, which is directly accessible by the public. It will offer artists the opportunity to engage with a specific place, providing space and shelter to undertake their investigations and share with an audience. It will be an inter-disciplinary project involving artists, other professionals and students providing creative learning opportunities throughout all phases. The structure of The Observatory will be determined through a design competition open to architects and artists across the UK. The River Tamar Project hosted an exhibition of the shortlisted entries at the Tamar Valley Centre, Gunnislake, from 24 – 28 March 2014. The winning design was announced on 7 April 2014 and we will be working with SPUD to bring the finished Observatory to the River Tamar for a six month period where both artists and the public will be able to engage with this unique structure.

SPUD has extensive experience in delivering a major artist residency programme with the Exbury Egg.  The Exbury Egg has attracted genuinely global interest in the creation of a high quality and unique structure engages people. Most recently, the Egg was featured on George Clarke’s Amazing Spaces on Channel 4 TV in the UK. The Observatory needs to intrigue people and act as a beacon that draws attention to a place – in this case 4 very special locations along southern England from the South Downs to the Tamar estuary. The Observatory will be movable, flexible and reconfigurable. It will offer opportunities for a variety of artists (working in differing media) to create new work in response to the special locations.