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Kevin Trappeniers' minimal installation Observatory is a ‘silent object’ that, as a public shelter, invites the local community, passers-by and visitors to reflect on the precarious relationship between humans and their environment. A geodesic dome in the public space questions a redesigned urban landscape.

Historically, the dome as a shape is often seen in Christian and Persian architecture, as it would hearten the mystical experience. The geodesic dome, a light yet remarkably strong structure made up of a network of interconnected triangles, was first designed by Walther Bauersfeld as part of a planetarium. Buckminster Fuller popularized the geodesic dome and used it for industrial buildings and exhibition spaces. Nowadays, the structure is easily used as a temporary object during public events and for glamping, and also as a protective structure against the weather for botanical gardens, closed ecosystems, greenhouses and even a future desire for domed cities. Observatory is a play on all of these functionalities. 


The visitor can enter this place of retreat and withdraw from the surroundings while being in the center of them. “Observatory” embraces you as you sit on a bench and observe the landscape as if through a lens.


Inside, minimal architectural elements engage into dialogue with the surrounding landscape. A low water basin encloses the visitor in the dome. It is in the case of Harelbeke an echo of the Moleneiland peninsula and weir, and in Hasselt it echoed the surrounding pond and passing river the Demer. In a broadened scope referring to continental landmasses separated by expanses of water.

Rainwater can seep through the dome and fall into the brimming basin, overflowing. Contrastingly, when rain remains absent, a dry landscape appears, leaving an arid impression for want of water. It is a reflection on the global ecological impact of humans on water and water on humans, subtly explored on local soil. For the duration of the land art festival, the domes materials are subject to the elements.


Partly isolated from and also in the landscape, this installation questions our connection to our natural and constructed daily surroundings. How caring are we still with our attention in a landscape of artificial interventions? How do we model our natural and urban landscapes and how do they form us? It is a symbolic space in between city and nature seeking tranquillity.


Observatory was created on the Contrei Live art trail. It was shown on the Moleneiland, a small water-surrounded peninsula in the river Leie in Harelbeke (BE). For this festival field recordist and sound-artist Stijn Demeulenaere created a site-specific sound work, and dramaturge Elisa Demarré wrote two texts:

- a dialogue text. Read or download here: 'Observatory in dialoog' (in Dutch)

- an essay. Read or download here: 'Observatory: La Réalité Filtrée' (in Dutch)


During Theater op de Markt Festival 2022, in the by landscape architects redesigned Kapermolenpark in Hasselt (BE), Observatory welcomed Kosovar composer Donika Rudi to present her octophony Ode to Life.


Observatory was included in the exhibition Prefigurations: on Architecture and Transitions within the framework of The Great Transformation by Architecture Workroom Brussels (BE).  The opening days of the exhibition are part of the New European Bauhaus festival. Future Places Forum is set up in collaboration with the International Architecture Biennale Rotterdam. Prefigurations is part of the summer program of Brussels 2030.


metal, wood, plastic, fabric, black quartz, carrara stones


concept: Kevin Trappeniers

design & development: Maarten Devrieze, Vincent Malstaf, Hans A.R. Van Wambeke

dramaturgy: Elisa Demarré

production: Contrei Live, Stray Light vzw

co-production: C-TAKT

thanks to: Vlaamse Overheid, De Vlaamse Waterweg


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