Imperial Valley Desert Museum
Design - Build
Photographs by Breyden Anderson
By completely blocking its exterior surroundings, but leaving the sky visible, the Observatory isolates visitors and asks them to look upwards into the extended universe. The Observatory invites one to take on an indigenous view of the cosmos; to forget the modern conception of cosmology and instead bask in the seemingly magical presence of the night sky. The ultimate purpose of the Observatory is to encourage people to ponder what it means to exist in our universe: an ever-expanding kaleidoscope of collapsing light.
The Observatory was designed and built with a method that focused on process. The program called for a circular space that blocks the visitor’s view of all human-made constructs and was built using traditional methods of stucco on straw bales. The form of the ring was designed to accommodate varying sizes of bales, changing sight conditions, and limited maneuvering of industrial equipment. After the bales were set into the foundation, they were unified with a stucco finish. The result is a structure which consists of myriad spaces and crevices that allow visitors to explore and utilize as they want. The outcome is a primordial form that becomes an extension of the desert: as permanent as the world it dwells in.