Renovated observatory ready for AI research

Observatorie1 web
October 31, 2023

The observatory building in the Botanical Gardens in Copenhagen was built in 1859, and it has been restored and decorated with new, harmonious colouring as a base for artificial intelligence research by the Pioneer Centre for AI at the University of Copenhagen.

  • The Observatory is a listed building, and it has undergone painstaking and gentle repair from door to dome. Everything is ready, from facades to floors, kitchenettes, shower facilities and installations on all floors, and the important heritage and architectural values have been identified and revitalised.

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    Besides the University of Copenhagen, Dissing+Weitling has worked with the Danish Agency for Culture and Palaces, Copenhagen’s Conservator, Niras, painters and other craftsmen throughout the process, as well as the future users of the building.

  • Observtaorie Detalje træ web
    It is difficult to get a homogenous surface with tempera paint, and the different colours have different consistencies. Furthermore, the surfaces are fragile because the paint has to be applied wet on wet, which makes it more difficult to repair.
  • Colour archaeology and room division

    Colour archaeology and historical building analyses have made it possible to identify the original pigments and binders in the wall paints. The transformation and renovation team have studied the original drawings and traces in the building to gain an impression of life in the building and how the colours have supported this.

  • Observatoriebygning røde rum web
  • The central wing and transverse wings were originally reserved for the specialist astronomical instruments, and the materials and colouring was adapted to the research work to eliminate any disturbing light from outside. The high-ceilinged rooms with dark ornamented wooden ceilings and walls were painted in a deep red dodenkop. In more recent times, the transverse wings were converted into small offices with an additional floor.

    The characteristic red is today used to bind the smaller rooms in the transverse wings together once again, to convey the original room division while also accommodating the requirements of future work functions.

    The side wings were originally homes for the director and astronomer, and here too the new colouring takes account of the original pigments.

    Six individual colours have been chosen for the new colouring, and with the lighting they accentuate the experience of the rooms and respect the building’s unique character.

  • Farveprøve på væg observatoriebygningen

    The colour-archaeological investigation involved a technique by which the layers of paint are photographed and numbered individually. They are exposed in chronological order, with the oldest layer at the bottom moving up to later layers.

  • Observatoriebygningen Dissing+Weitling
    The Observatory complex, Øster Voldgade 3 was designed by the architect Christian Hansen between 1859 and 1861.
  • Consideration of the past, present and future

    The final colouring is the result of thorough analysis and interpretation of the function of the building in the past, present and future. The small rooms in particular reflect the greater narrative of a highly functional building, but the users are 'rewarded' by atmospheric rooms that communicate the 150-year history of astral exploration from this special place.

  • Observatoriebygning trappe web
    New colouring on the ground floor respecting the beautiful old materials.
  • Until 2019, the University of Copenhagen, the Department of Science Education, the Center for Science Didaktik and Danish Science Communication used the elegant rooms in the Botanical Gardens, with a direct view to Rosenborg Castle.

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    The three-winged building with its characteristic dome over the main entrance was for many years the centre of astronomy in Denmark with dwellings for the director, astronomer and assistants in the side wings.