Swansea Observatory - 'The Tower of the Ecliptic'
Standing upon its purpose-built octagonal platform, extending from the sea wall at Swansea Bay, 'The Tower of the Ecliptic' was once home to Wales' largest telescope.
The building is due to be redeveloped as a café bar and holiday apartment in 2013 by local business man Noah Redfern. Expected to open in October, the new venue will breathe new life into the iconic and locally loved landmark: Old Swansea observatory set to open as a seafront café bar.
Originally the modern structure was built and partly financed by Swansea Council, in the early 1990s, for the purposes of providing a public observatory. The council received and matched half of the funding from a European Regional Development Grant. When building work was complete, in 1993, the observatory was officially loaned to the Swansea Astronomical Society.
In 2009 Swansea Council requested that the Swansea Astronomical Society pay 10% of the market rent, rising each year for the next 10 years. Swansea Astronomical Society explained that the increase in rent and the end of the council subsidy meant they would need to find £40,000 to keep it going over the next 10 years. SAS decided to end their occupation of the building and relocated their base to the Fairwood playing fields of the University College of Swansea; which is equipped with a 12" Meade Schmidt Cassegrain catadioptric telescope.
The building consists of two tall towers, giving it the popular name, 'Marina Towers'. The optical tower, which at one time housed the 500mm Shafer-Maksutov reflecting telescope, has a white-washed square body built from hand-made Southern Irish bricks. This tower was crowned with its £18,000 fibreglass dome in 1991, but needed to be reset when it was discovered that the brick support was misaligned. A vital part of designer, Norman Walker's, construction relied upon precision installation of the dome, which, when floating upon a channel of water layered with oil, would enable the 5 metre shell to be turned with one finger. The viewing gallery is found on upper levels of the tower.
The second tower houses the main entrance and a large spiral stairway, giving access to the four levels of the optical tower via open walkways.