CHICAGO, ILLINOIS -- January 24, 2017 – The Metal Construction Association (MCA) awarded Gemma Observatory in Southern New Hampshire its 2016 Chairman’s Award for Overall Excellence, the highest honor given.

The 1,200 square-foot observatory is sited at the end of a steep, 1/2-mile gravel road on a remote summit, characterized by granite bedrock outcroppings. At the center of a 3-mile radius of dark landscape, there is very little light pollution for optimal astronomical viewing. Anmahian Winton Architects created a design that dismissed the traditional observatory dome in favor of an architectural form expressed as an extension of the site's angular geography.

“There is a turret on the top that rotates, but unlike every other observatory, which is a round shape, it’s more like a Rubik’s Cube. It’s just fascinating and beautiful,” describes MCA judge Brent Schipper, AIA, LEED AP, Principal, ASK Studio in Des Moines, Iowa.

Metal’s adaptability to different architectural forms made it an ideal material for cladding the building’s innovative shape and moving parts.  Metal also can quickly dissipate heat gain once the sun has set. This is crucial to eliminating atmospheric distortion created by the building (similar to mirages produced on a hot day from materials that absorb heat like asphalt) and maximizes the time available for night sky observation.

The variable directionality of the panels reflects the building’s orientation to both geological and celestial landmarks, merging their different geometries and expressing the observatory as a nexus for where they come together. In addition, the zinc color matches the granite outcroppings, tying the building to its immediate environment.

“It appears that (the mountain stones) were pushed up against the base of the foundation… and then transforms into metal and becomes this small building. Because the scale, even though it’s not that big of a building, you could think it was ten stories tall,” describes MCA judge Mark Dewalt, AIA, Principal, Valerio Dewalt Train Associates, Chicago, Illinois.

Furthermore, metal met the need to create a sustainable structure that functions completely off the grid. The zinc panels require no maintenance and are part of a super-insulated wall assembly that minimizes the cost of operating the building.

The award was announced at a special ceremony during the MCA Winter Meeting, held in Weston, Florida from January 23-25, 2017. The annual 3-day event fosters industry collaboration, networking and growth in the metal construction industry.

The Chairman’s Awards are given to the year’s most exceptional building projects involving MCA member companies based on overall appearance, significance of metal in the project, innovative use of metal, and the role of metal in achieving project objectives

Recipients for these awards are selected each year from projects submitted by MCA members to Metal Architecture Magazine’s annual Design Awards Program. The honorees were chosen by a panel of professional architects, which included Mark Dewalt, AIA, Principal, Valerio Dewalt Train Associates, Chicago, Illinois; Mark Horton, FAIA, Principal, Mark Horton/Architecture, San Francisco, California; and Brent Schipper, AIA, LEED AP, Principal, ASK Studio, Des Moines, Iowa.

The 2016 MCA Chairman’s Awards were given in eight categories: overall excellence; residential; metal roofing; education, primary and secondary schools; education, colleges and universities; institutional; municipal; and commercial/industrial.

Project Recognition

MCA Member Manufacturer: Umicore Building Products USA, Inc.
Architect: Anmahian Winton Architects
Contractor: Patriots Builders (Scott Estabrooks)
Metal Installer: Crocker Architectural
Metal Fabricator: Crocker Architectural

About the Metal Construction Association

The Metal Construction Association brings together a diverse industry for the purpose of expanding the use of metal in construction through marketing, research, technology, and education. Companies involved in MCA gain tremendous benefit from association activities that focus on research, codes and standards, market development, and technical programs. MCA’s market development efforts increase the use of metal materials in construction through the education of the building and design communities regarding the benefits of metal.