New Retractable Enclosure on Fort Lewis College’s New Observatory brings the Stars Right into the Classroom

OpenAire builds a state-of-the-art retractable observatory enclosure for Fort Lewis’ new Geosciences, Physics and Engineering Hall

After 105 years of educating Colorado students in the arts and sciences, Fort Lewis College (FLC) in Durango, Colorado, is now home to a state of the art Geosciences, Physics and Engineering Hall, complete with a beautiful retractable enclosure observatory that will let students see the skies like never before. Fort Lewis College’s new observatory is housed under a retractable enclosure that brings the stars right into the classroom. Designed and built by retractable structure specialist OpenAire, this double slope enclosure measuring 15’ x 22’ with 5’ high sidewalls and two upper gable ends, retracts seamlessly over a fixed steel structure to give the facility’s large telescopes an unobstructed view of the city’s high-altitude skies.

The observatory is the capstone to the new 60,000 square-foot addition to FLC’s Berndt Hall. The four-floor building encompasses cutting-edge facilities and technology for the college’s rapidly-growing Geosciences, Physics and Engineering Departments. The rooftop observatory provides students and researchers with astronomical, optical and other physics research tools. Central to the observatory’s design is the OpenAire retractable enclosure, which slides off at the touch of a button, letting students and researchers use the telescopes in the outdoor environment during both summer and winter months. In cloudy or inclement weather, the enclosure can close quickly and quietly, ensuring the equipment stays safe from the elements.

“The observatory is going to be an important feature of FLC’s science programs for years to come. We’re proud to be a part of it,” says Mark Albertine, President and CEO of OpenAire. “Our experience designing unique structures around the world made us more than ready to accept the challenge of meeting the requirements for this project and we are pleased to add another amazing observatory to our portfolio. Our team worked closely with the College’s architect and our building partners to make an enclosure that fits the new building perfectly by integrating with the new steel structure supporting the retractable roof and cladding the enclosure with materials to match the new construction. The mix of functionality and beautiful design is a great addition for Fort Lewis College and makes an enormous contribution to what the College has to offer.”

The attractive, modern-themed enclosure will provide years of reliable service thanks to OpenAire’s custom craftsmanship and durable materials. With its sturdy, weatherproof design and precision-installed machinery, the enclosure will sit securely over the observatory building in any weather, requiring no maintenance thanks to its corrosion-proof aluminum frame construction. It’s a winning solution that will bring students new knowledge of the skies for generations to come.

See the new Geosciences, Physics and Engineering Hall being built now at: