Residential Observatory | Sky View Home-Based Observatory | Uni-Systems Projects

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Residential Observatory

Known primarily for major league stadium designs, Uni-Systems recently completed what amounts to a “removable cover” for an observatory tower built atop a private home. The owners, life-long astronomy buffs, were building a family compound in remote northern United States. With few neighbors, and even fewer exterior lights for miles, the location was ideal for stargazing. Uni-Systems was asked to design an observatory platform that would be open to the night sky, yet allow for protection from the harsh winter climate.

The Uni-Systems design team created several plans, and the winning option called for something never previously seen in a private home – a sliding, cantilevered roof which opens to provide an unobstructed, 180 degree view for the optical telescope housed inside. The front of the observatory faces east, and features a balcony overlooking the lake and the surrounding hardwood forest.

The roof system works in three seamless steps. At the push of a button, the front edge of the roof pivots up 12 degrees to provide clearance for the optical telescope. Next, the entire 20’ by 22’-6” roof slides back 18’, where it cantilevers off the back of the conservatory structure. In the final step, the front edge of the retractable roof pivots down to the original, horizontal position to provide an unobstructed view of the entire night sky. Push the close button, and the system silently reverses to close. In either direction, the entire process takes just under three and a half minutes. The retractable roof was equipped with an electrical heating system to melt any snow load, and the life cycle service duty of the observatory roof mechanization was established to be 2,400 hours, or approximately 200 usage days per year for 30 years.

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