Before we invented civilization our ancestors lived mainly in the open out under the sky. Before we devised artificial lights and atmospheric pollution and modern forms of nocturnal entertainment we watched the stars. There were practical calendar reasons of course but there was more to it than that. Even today the most jaded city dweller can be unexpectedly moved upon encountering a clear night sky studded with thousands of twinkling stars. When it happens to me after all these years it still takes my breath away.
Carl Sagan, Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space
In the fall of 2015, the SIU School of Architecture was approached by the physics department to see if there would be any interest in teaming up to generate a series of design ideas for a new campus Observatory to support both the astronomy curriculum and local, private astronomy interests. The catalyst for the inquiry are the impending full solar eclipse events that will occur in 2017 and 2024. For both events, SIU and Carbondale, IL is located at a prime viewing position. These major events will draw national and global attention and position SIU to be a point of interest for anyone who is seeking an optimal view of an eclipse. Currently, NASA is scheduled to have a team on campus during the 2017 event as will a number of other national entities.
Based on the actual current needs of the Physics department, the project was divided into three phases: basic needs for a serviceable site, secondary needs for a more functional facility, and ideal needs for a complete observation environment. The students developed all three phases of the project and presented them for consideration to a group of architects and faculty. The results of the process were very well received and the hope is that one of the schemes will be chosen in the near future to push forward into a build phase.