Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

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Observatory temporarily closing

[media-credit name=’BEN CLASSON/Herald photo’ align=’alignnone’ width=’648′]Observatory_BC[/media-credit]The University of Wisconsin's Washburn Observatory will close its doors late October due to a renovation project budgeted at $2.5 million.

The 126-year-old building will be remodeled and restored to include classroom and display space, as well as an elevator to provide handicap access to the facilities for the first time in the building's history.

According to Laura Davis, an architect responsible for the renovation, the documents will be ready for contractors to bid on as early as Dec. 20, and the goal is to have construction start in March 2008.

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The remodeled building will include an expanded 600-square-foot basement accessible to the physically disabled through an adjacent ramp, dug along the hill under the observatory, Davis said.

"The telescope will not be accessible because elevators require a certain overrun, and it would stick through the roof," she said.

Those who wouldn't be able to climb the stairs, Davis said, would still be able to watch videos transmitted from the telescope and exhibited in the new basement.

The project is being developed by Isthmus Architecture, a Madison-based group of architects and design professionals — the same company responsible for restoring the Wisconsin State Capitol and UW’s Biochemistry building and renovating UW’s Sterling Hall.

According to Davis, Washburn Observatory will be restored to resemble its original look.

"We didn't want to put any kind of addition that would change the outside appearance," she added.

Once completed, the renovated building will also be home to the College of Letters and Science's Honors Program.

"This will be the first time in 50 years of the honors program we'll have unique space of our own," L&S Honors Program Director Charles Snowdon said. "We're excited to have our own home."

According to Snowdon, the facility will include ampler accommodations for advising sections and student group meetings.

"We're in four tiny rooms in South Hall, and the building is not [handicap] accessible," he said.

UW astronomy professor James Lattis said students and the general public are encouraged to visit the UW Space Place located on 2300 S. Park St. during the restoration process.

The telescope located in Space Place is not as powerful as the one in the Washburn Observatory, Lattis said, but Space Place has more space for other astronomical activities.

"[Space Place] is a much more extensive facility," he said. "We do workshops, public displays, and a wide range of school programs."

Washburn Observatory will be open the next three Wednesdays before it closes until April 2009.

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