The National Maritime Museum in London, United Kingdom was designed and completed by Allies and Morrison Architects. The National Maritime Museum represents an ensemble of important historic buildings set within an iconic landscape, the whole comprising the Greenwich World Heritage Site. The project for the Royal Observatory in Greenwich Park encompasses the restoration and upgrading of the South Building, a planetarium and the redesign of the landscaping and visitor route through the museum. This exciting development responds to the diverse demands of planetarium audiences, education groups and site visitors whilst opening up the south half of the Royal Observatory site.
A 118 seat planetarium has been inserted in the centre of the site. Access to the auditorium is at lower ground level through a spacious foyer. The Peter Harrison Planetarium is housed in a cone whose geometry reflects key astronomical concepts in its relation to the space. Above round this is manifested as a tilted bronze cone aligned with the north star at 51.5°. The disc cut at 90° through its apex is parallel to the celestial equator. This plane is clad in layers of reflecting glass in which the space of the passing sky is revealed.
The cone is constructed from 250mm concrete to keep out sound, which is clad in an 8mm thick phosphor bronze carapace. The metalwork was prefabricated in Gateshead then brought to site in 18 segments, where it was site welded to achieve the exact conic geometry of an astronomical instrument. The final bronze finish has been achieved by layers of patination, a technique usually applied to bronze sculptures, which will get richer over time.