House of Astronomy by Bernhardt + Partners



Architects Bernhardt + Partners have designed an astronomy centre in Heidelberg, Germany.


Called House of Astronomy, the building will be used to give workshops and presentations about astronomy to school pupils, teachers and the public.


According to the architects, the structure is based on the shape of a spiral galaxy; offices and seminar rooms wrap around a central auditorium, which seats approximately 100 people.


Construction is due for completion in 2011


The following is from Bernhardt + Partners:


House of astronomy, Heidelberg (Germany)

The building will be used to teach pupils, teachers and the public the fascination of astronomical themes. Children and teenagers will be able to improve their basic knowledge on physics and mathematics through enthusiasm on astronomy. Workshops provide teachers with new ideas for presenting scientific subjects in the classrooms. The M51 spiral galaxy was used as the primary design key. The building geometry is derived from the galaxy core and their spiralling arms. The tracks, in which the stars, gas, dust and dark matter rotate around the centre of the galaxy, are used as snapshots and transferred into 3D curves. These 3-dimensional staggered curves form the peculiar cladding of the building.


Three curves define a strip of facade that accumulates towards the centre of the building and is separated by a band of glass. Although on first sight it seems a point- symmetrical building, both the storey levels and the façade rotate around the centre of the building. As a result of that, the galaxy will not be transferred into a 2-dimensional picture but into a full 3-dimensional structure made of orbits. The sinuous spiral arms are shifted by a half storey and thus give extra support to the buildings rotational movement around the core.
By the mean of this entresol shift, new cross-links between the levels will be created. The auditorium in the centre of the galaxy is a multifunctional room for scientific lectures and astronomical displays with an All-dome projection system existing of a 12m diameter cupola and additional inclinable chairs.


The overall 2700sqm net useable area of the building are provided through concrete slabs supported by one central cantilever that projects towards the column-free facades. This cantilever which is a mixture between a massive beam and a box girder rests on only a few central columns. Ramps will be designed to embrace the auditorium in the centre and will lead to different levels of the building. The cores of the main staircases will be designed to transfer vertical loads and work as horizontal reinforcements for the building structure.


The surrounding facade of the building, working as a support and climate shield and therefore fulfilling the main physical tasks of the building, will be elevated onto the massive concrete slabs with recognizable distance. The secondary support system of the façade takes over the load transfer of dead loads, wind and snow-forces and transfers those forces into the ceiling slabs and the massive parapets.


The construction work for the project of the Klaus-Tschira-Foundation and the Max-Planck-Society is intended to start next year. Until 2011 the building should be finished. Only the building costs are still written in the stars…


Posted on Tuesday December 16th 2008 at 7:04 pm by . Copyright policy | Comments policy

  • sc hu yl er

    I wonder if this building would fit in the toilet building..

  • Lawr09

    it looks very oscar niemeyer

  • This would be a great addition to Heidelberg, if the city would buy that project.

  • Theodore Whipple

    Hmmm…good for what it is, but generous with the kitsch factor, no? As Greenberg defined it: “the imitation of imitating.”

    There is something about this that is uncomfortably retrograde and anti-innovation. It’s Beaux-Arts, it’s Dubai, it’s a little too simple even for children…

  • chapmaniac

    F.L.W Guugenheim + UN Studio Mercedes Museum…I think it looks a bit retro

  • skilistjenkins

    errrr is it me or on the first image are two grey plastic penis’ poking there heads up behind the building?

  • harlequin

    I agree with the Guggenheim reference and the galaxy swirl design is a bit obvious.

  • Jer

    I wish that the central lecture/auditorium area could have been somehow articulated and emphasized in the exterior elevations. I think of some of Lebbeus Woods astronomy-based projects from the 80s as motivator.

  • Richie

    The 1950s Modernism type exterior style seems a bit plain and retro for the concept. If they’re going with the kitschy galaxy-shaped plan it might’ve been a better choice to make the expression more ‘flashy’ to match..

  • K. Rimane

    @ skilistjenkins

    your comment shows how little you know about space.
    And please, don’t buy a french baguette, you may think it’s a big eatable dildo.

    great building which is an excellent reference to the roots of our solar system. planets won’t exist if galaxies never formed.

  • 2cent

    S like spiralgalaxy and S like simple….. for me good architecture need not to be much complicated and incomprehensible
    i don´t know why nobody else had this obvious idea so far.

    i like the design and i hope the inner space of the building is as much dynamic and vibrant as the outer facade

  • james

    white buildings here we go again!

  • king