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SPACE In the Landscape

Amber Au

César Torres-Bustamante

March 2021

This project aims to promote the preservation of dark skies through the implementation of astro-tourism experiences and mindful lighting design at the Mt. John Observatory in New Zealand. The redesign of the observatory will engage the public by providing interactive daytime and nighttime experiences that showcase the celestial objects that are often hidden from us by light pollution. Currently 83% of the world’s population live under light polluted skies and as the night sky becomes brighter, people are looking to escape the bright city lights. The redesign of the Mt. John Observatory promotes the natural dark skies by creating an astro-tourism destination for those looking to reconnect with the sun and stars. In addition to promoting dark skies this project will develop design solutions that minimize light pollution with the intention to incorporate them in cities and other urban environments.

Background Information

The Mt. John Observatory is a world-renowned observatory in the Canterbury region of New Zealand’s South Island. Because of its location within the Aoraki Mackenzie Dark Sky Preserve, the observatory must limit the amount of light produced on site to minimize disruptions to the natural dark skies. The observatory has beautiful views of Lake Tekapo during the day, pristine night skies and is a 10-minute drive from the neighboring town of Tekapo.

Additional Design Implementations

In addition to redesigning the Mt. John Observatory, this project includes designing a new entrance experience, lookout points and site furnishings. The road to the summit of Mt. John begins with an enhanced entrance experience and along the 2-mile road multiple lookout points are implemented to showcase the different viewsheds from Mt. John. The design also includes furniture typologies that implement mindful lighting designs that could be incorporated within urban environments.



Hi, my name is Amber Au and my senior project combines my interests in astronomy and landscape architecture. I grew up living less than 10 miles from downtown Los Angeles, making me one of many people who has lived under light polluted skies their whole lives. Because we have been so blinded by light pollution, I wanted to use my project to promote astro-tourism and preserve the natural dark skies. My goal with this project is to raise awareness of light pollution by showcasing astronomical experiences that can only occur under naturally dark skies.

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