The European Southern Observatory (ESO), Garching

From Bavaria to the universe beyond

The European Southern Observatory (ESO), which has its headquarters in Garching near Munich, is the most productive research facility for ground-based astronomy worldwide. The organisation was founded in 1962 by Belgium, Germany, France, the Netherlands and Sweden with the goal of allowing European astronomers to observe the southern night sky. Today, over fifty years later, the ESO is a world leader in astronomical research. The number of member states has increased to 15, with Brazil as the first non-European member (although the membership is yet to be ratified).
In addition to the base in Garching, the ESO also operates three highly unique observation sites in Chile. One of them – the Paranal Observatorium – is located next to the ESO Hotel Residencia designed by Auer+Weber+Assoziierte, made famous by the James Bond movie “Quantum of Solace”. At this location in the middle of the Atacama desert, the ESO operates the world’s most advanced visible-light astronomical observatory, featuring the Very Large Telescope.
In total, around 740 employees work for the European Southern Observatory. Due to the steadily growing number of employees at the German headquarters, built in 1980, it became necessary to expand to provide space for further technical equipment, offices and conferences. An international competition resulted in the selection of the architectural firm Auer+Weber+Assoziierte from Munich, whose design complemented the stylistic elements of the existing structure. In order to achieve this, the architects developed a curved office and conference venue which seemingly floats above the ground. The two-storey technical complex beside it is also circular. The old building is connected to the extension via a covered bridge on the first floor. The new buildings feature the JUNG classic LS 990 switch range in white. In some areas, the lighting and shading is taken care of by JUNG’s KNX push-button sensors. In others, functions such as the level of light, blinds, and heating can be controlled via the KNX Facility Colour Touch Panel IP.

The expansion of the ESO facility by a total of 18,700m2 has created more space to allow the research establishment to carry out their work with ground-based telescopes more efficiently in the future. The European Extremely Large Telescope, for instance, is currently being developed there. With a diameter of around 40 metres, it is set to become the largest optical telescope in the world.
Pictures: ESO

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