Historically sited on Blackford Hill for a clear view of the night sky, the Grade A listed Royal Observatory occupies an outstanding position with fine views across the city of Edinburgh. Today, it is the home of the UK Astronomy Technology Centre that designs and manufactures state-of-the-art instruments for many of the world’s major telescopes in Hawaii, Australia and Chile.
To facilitate the manufacture and testing of the next generation of larger instruments, a new building was commissioned comprising offices and three laboratories. The new laboratories’ central function is to test the performance of the instruments using a flexure rig that simulates the rotations of telescopes in use. The laboratories are equipped with: control rooms; overhead crane; loading bay; vibration, dust and draught control; black out; compressed air and specialist gases.
The offices are cellular in configuration for use by research scientists although they are flexible enough to allow open plan arrangements in the future if required.
Apart from functionality, a guiding principle in the design was to maintain a low profile so that long-distance views of the Grade A listed Royal Observatory and the setting of the house of the former Astronomer Royal for Scotland were preserved. The commission included a masterplan for future development of the Royal Observatory within its walled enclosure.
The new laboratories and offices are also used by the University of Edinburgh’s Institute for Astronomy.