Children are often encouraged to reach for the stars, but a school in Woking, Surrey is going one step further with plans to build a planetarium, the first state school in the country to do so.
The Winston Churchill School approached us in 2015 with the planetarium request as part of a brief to create a multi-purpose space to improve its existing facilities. The two-storey building will include additional sports changing facilities and a library with study areas. The first floor will house the planetarium as well as an IT suite and flexible open plan hall and exhibition space. Whilst the primary benefit will be to improve the school’s facilities, this unique space will also be made available to the community, providing a fantastic learning resource and totally immersive environment for both business and leisure events.
The planetarium will be almost 6m high, at the highest point of the domed roof, by 6m wide and has been designed to hold up to 30 people at any one time. The intention is that the facility will be at least partially solar-powered. The proposal has planning consent and now the school is actively looking for funding to help turn the idea into reality.
According to the The British Association of Planetaria, there are only about 15 permanent planetaria across the British Isles so understandably there is much enthusiasm surrounding the proposed project. ‘We have been supporting the growth and development of planetaria nationwide for over three decades,’ says BAP President Mark Watson. ‘The installation of a fixed dome at The Winston Churchill School comes at an exciting time and we look forward to supporting and assisting them in this venture for many years to come.’
History of the planetarium
The world’s first projection planetarium was designed by a German engineer called Walter Bauersfeld. Known as the Zeiss Planetarium, it opened in 1926 and gave people the first opportunity to experience projected images of the solar system onto a domed roof. It is located in Jena in East Germany and is still in operation today. The rudimentary equipment first installed has long since made way for cutting-edge immersive technology that continues to amaze thousands of visitors every year.
Modern digital dome technology makes extraordinary 360° shared audience experiences possible. This immersive experience is provided by a multi-projector system hidden within the walls of the dome. Each projector creates one part of the image. The projections are faded at the edges to allow them to blend into one another to form a seamless appearance. Whilst the original aim of a planetarium was to create a representation of the night sky, nowadays the possibilities are endless including 3D modelling, film screenings, live performance, product launches and digital arts.