A Place Among the Stars

Mkb Header 1

For all of human history, we have looked up in wonder at the night sky. Knowledge of the stars and their yearly cycle brought the ancestors of the Māori to New Zealand. This knowledge has also helped humankind make sense of the world for as long as we have been able to look up.

Modern astronomy has revealed that by studying the stars, we discover our origins and our place within the seemingly infinite universe. Unfortunately, for many of us, light pollution in urban and suburban areas makes viewing our home galaxy, the Milky Way, impossible. We have become disconnected from the cosmos.

Mkb Full Width 2

New Zealand is one of the best places in the world to stargaze. Aotea or Great Barrier Island, at the edge of Auckland’s Hauraki Gulf, is one of three locations in the country recognised internationally for its pristine dark night skies. On this island, far from the mainland’s bright city lights, is where I sought to create a work of architecture that could stimulate a greater appreciation of the night sky and an understanding of our place among the stars.

To achieve this, this thesis examines the importance of astronomy both historically and presently: how and why the stars move across the sky each night, the Māori Maramataka (lunar calendar), and the immense scale of the physical, three-dimensional universe.

Mkb Full Width 3
Mkb Full Wifth 4

The outcome of this thesis is an experiential facility, with a focus on naked-eye observation at the summit of the Te Ahumatā plateau on Great Barrier Island. The facility consists of a collection of small structures scattered across the mountaintop, with a larger building – the observatory – at the highest point. Visitors come to the facility to learn about the stars and to discover their place among them.

Mkb Full Width 5
Mkb Full Width 6
Mkb Full Width 1

All night sky images are courtesy of Dark Sky Project, Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve.