Penn State BArch Program, Fifth Year: Competition (2 weeks)


Status: completed

For centuries, humans have attempted to prescribe meaning and purpose to existence; when this proves fruitless, they look to the stars. This is a common method for defining things: if we cannot describe what it is, we start with what it isn't. This "otherness" has long fascinated humans, particularly in the case of the vastness of space. According to architectural theorist Sanford Kwinter, "Europe invented 'America' as their future and outside, but America invented the new frontiers--outer space and the insane warp speed that was meant to take them there--as theirs. Speed and space were the new materials of which the future would be made." Inventing frontiers involves the construction of the outline of "the other," separating our definable, visible bodies and the unknowable, unimaginable fabric of the wild sky.

Our innate human desire to explore the unimaginable and define the unknowable manifests itself in the permeation of this frontier, making slow, careful progress in grasping the Other. This observatory at Mt. Lemmon is just one of these thresholds, allowing visitors to depart from our known world and shared human identity by crossing a bridge over the landscape and entering an intermediate zone: the observation platform. Alone and surrounded by a vast dark void, visitors use the telescope as a tool to observe the Other. Occupying this foreign, mysterious void allows individuals to consciously interact with the Here and the Other as two complimentary entities, continuing the long tradition of searching for answers about humanity, identity, and purpose in the stars.