More than a decade ago, we designed the Astrometric Lab at the Gates Science & Technology Center at Kent Denver School in Cherry Hills Village, Colorado.  The name of the space was coined by our friend David Potter, a retired Physics teacher from the school.  The space fulfilled a dream I had nurtured since I was 14 years old when I visited Stonehenge for the first time.  During that visit I learned that Stonehenge was not just an ancient temple, but a precise astronomical instrument.  Contrary to popular mythology it has nothing to do with Druids, although they still like to celebrate there, but was built to mark critical calendar dates such as the summer solstice.

Being there all those years ago, touching the stones, and seeing those alignments had a profound impact on me.  Ever since I had wanted to create a large scale piece of architecture that would provide a similar sense of wonder at our ability to understand celestial mechanics and to connect them with human scale.  Early in the design of the Kent Denver School Science and Technology Center, it occurred to me that this project offered just such an opportunity.  I realized that we needed a signature entrance element, and that it could easily be shaped as a large cylinder.  I soon began to think of that entrance as an inside-out Stonehenge.

I showed a few early sketches of the concept to David, and he quickly suggested improvements to the design.  He also realized that we could implement analemmas – the figure eight shape the sun’s path takes in the sky – to achieve a stunning level of accuracy for the time keeping aspect of the design.  We continued to collaborate on the piece and achieved the desired goal, despite serious obstacles during construction.

The height of the walls of the cylinder are dimensioned to allow the sun at noon to be visible at all times the sun is shining, appearing to touch the bottom of the wall at the summer solstice and to touch the top of the wall at the winter solstice.  Lines on the walls show the track of the sun at one month increments between the solstices.  Analemmas trace the sun’s path at one hour increments from day to day.  All of this may sound complicated, but the beauty of the space is that once it is experienced, the geometry is self explanatory.

Please take a look at the time lapse video of the space taken on a clear vernal equinox day, and you’ll see for yourself!

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