‘Star-chitectural’ visualisations: reimagining Sherwood Observatory

On the outskirts of the region’s famous Sherwood Forest and overlooking the Nottinghamshire town of Mansfield, Sherwood Observatory’s architectural design remains essentially untouched since its construction. In 1986 it was hand-built by the Mansfield and Sutton Astronomical Society (MSAS) and currently sits above a century-old Victorian reservoir – but with ambitious plans announced in 2020 that is all about to change.  

The new vision for Sherwood Observatory includes a state-of-the-art discovery centre and planetarium designed to inspire wonder and STEM learning. It’s aim will be to encourage visitors both young and old to explore the secrets of the night sky and visit Nottingham.  

As part of a community-focused charity project, the Bloc Family worked together to volunteer branding, modelling and animation skills to reimagine the visitor attraction. Here’s how the stars aligned… 

Architectural Visualisations  

Armed with initial 3D models produced by architecture students at the nearby University of Nottingham, we began the ArchViz process by creating ‘out of this world’ architectural visualisations of the observatory’s exterior.  

sherwood observatory
Sherwood Observatory, built by hand by MSAS members in the mid-1970s (Image Credit: MSAS).

The nature of the project meant night time visuals were as, if not more important than day time. The structure would need enough illumination to give visibility but should avoid obscuring the wonders of the night sky, and would be surrounded by light up solar system models to encourage learning about the universe.

We also added textures to brickwork, wood and even Sherwood Forest surroundings as detailed photorealistic CGIs would bring extra impact – driving engagement and enhancing understanding within the business community.

Next we moved on to the interior. A state-of-the-art planetarium would sit at the heart of the new visitor attraction and unveil the secrets of the universe, so it needed to be showcased as the hub for engaging and inspiring that it would become. Below ground level, a century old Victorian reservoir’s red brick arches would be transformed into high-tech classrooms, meeting rooms and IT rooms. Combining history and the future, it would become a curiosity-inspiring space for teaching and learning!

Bringing together these 3D visualisations with upbeat audio, an inspiring animation showcasing the new building plans was born. Speaking about the project Steve Wallace, Planetarium Project Manager at MSAS said:

“Virtually all of the feedback is along the lines of ‘wow, that’s impressive’. The images and animation were used at the project launch event. Everyone was incredibly impressed and could see the potential as the animation in particular really brought the project to life. We have already started to receive offers of support off the back of the event.”

Sherwood Observatory CGI animation


A vital aspect of how a brand becomes known to its customers, a strong identity spearheads how people perceive your company or organisation. With this in mind, it was Bloc Creative’s turn to bring the visitor attraction to life by developing a new, wonder-inspiring brand.

Starting with the current MSAS logo the team were given a brief: bring colour, education, inclusivity and fun to captivate a community. ‘Science’, ‘inspiration’, and ‘learning’ were key, as well as its ability to appeal to both kids and adults.

During the branding process a range of astronomical concepts and creative ideas were tried and tested, including star constellations, a time lapse starry sky, a planet with the sun rising and orbiting planet paths.

The team also experimented with shapes, fonts, colours and combinations before unveiling the final design. The new brand identity would combine a simple observatory shape with blue hues to represent the changing sky and moons and planets to inspire.

Branding and ‘star-chitectural’ visualisations bring a visitor attraction to life

The designs have been unveiled… now the observatory just needs to be built!

It was wonderful to watch our work in action during the recent virtual launch of Sherwood Observatory’s vision. Bringing the attractions plans together with architectural visualisation and branding not only helped aid understanding but also showcased the ‘out of this world’ potential for the future space.

Sherwood Observatory branding

In a project bringing expertise from all four corners of the Bloc family, we are very proud to have helped steer the future of the discovery centre and we look forward to the next stage of bringing the project to life… utilising web development to further unlock the secrets of the universe!