Group Ginger are proud to have been shortlisted to develop our proposals in response to the Leeds City of Culture 2023 artists brief for the East Leeds Observatory, inspired by the 300th year birthday of Sir John Smeaton.
Our proposals offered an immersive experience where visitors could walk in the sky, float amongst the clouds and experience the wonder of the sky during the day and at night, free from the distractions of the everyday. The focus was on an analogue, non‐digital experience to amplify observation; an immersive real‐time “felt” exposure to the natural physical world.
The Smeaton 300 is reminiscent of a Georgian fairground. From the outside, the structure looks like a fairground attracting passers‐by in a conventional and contemporary gaudy and coloured fashion; a spectacle. Visitors transition from outside to in through a circular vestibule, coloured in red to encourage dark adaptation of the human eye to preserve night vision. The internal mirrored space concentrates the view on one singular natural phenomenon, the sky above, providing a focus free of the distractions of context.
The space is 4m in diameter surrounded by twelve facets of a cone, mirrored at 55 degrees to reflect the world above. The angles allow a 360‐degree horizon view of the sky above unencumbered by human inhabitation and without reflecting the viewer or anyone else of the audience, creating an optical illusion of being surrounded by sky. The Smeaton 300 is made of twelve pre‐fabricated units assembled on site; as the circus fair arrives in town “the community” can be invited to help assemble the Smeaton 300. Pre‐fabricated panels are easily put together without the aid of lifting equipment or mechanical assistance.
We were delighted to be part of this competition, and would like to extend our congratulations to the winners; Heather Peak and Ivan Morison. We look forward to visiting the Star Maker as it begins to tour Leeds later this year!