An enigmatic object that connects worlds
Mallanganee Lookout is an iconic destination – one that provides views of a World Heritage landscape and, if one looks up, views to the centre of the galaxy located overhead.
Sited in Northern NSW, the Lookout provides an elevated view over an extraordinary sub-tropical landscape that has World Heritage status. At the same time, the lookout marks the location from where the centre of the Milky Way passes directly overhead. Mallanganee Lookout is therefore a place that locates us not only in the world, but in all of time.
Our interest in designing a place with both observational and pedagogic roles led us to the armillary sphere. At night, the sphere locates individual stars, constellations, galactic starfields, dark nebulae while also registering satellites passing overhead. During the day, carved apertures within the sphere allow for curated views out to key landmarks within the Richmond Ranges, dissolving the boundaries of the spherical form whilst maintaining the allusion of the whole. Further apertures are carved into the roof of the spere, creating intricate overlapping geometries which track the paths of significant stars.
The dematerialisation of the sphere through its construction from plate steel and concrete reinforces a sense of wonder in the encounter of this strange object in the landscape. The enigmatic quality this celestial observatory suggests a modern henge, but one that is informed more by science fiction than prehistoric form and material. A deliberate attempt to evoke a contemporary sublime, the hyper abstraction of the sphere creates a sense of wonder and thus invites curiosity about the worlds it connects.
In repurposing an ancient device for the 21st century, the abstraction the sphere’s material and form are augmented by layers of digital interpretation and information. A concrete plinth becomes a stage for a mixed reality experience with which visitors can interact, walking through a 5m wide digital representation of the Milky Way Galaxy. These contemporary ways of communicating are also used to tell the oldest human stories relating to this place of and its connection to outer space, those of the Githabul people of Bundjalung Country who have looked at these stars for tens of thousands of years.
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