The Dark Institute is an investigation into the inherent incongruity of a Space Station sited in the Rhondda Fawr.  The thesis explores how such a thing could be achieved, seeking an architectural language that expresses the juxtaposition.  It aims to reconcile and respond to both the raw topographical and seismic socio-industrial history of the landscape, and the futuristic, idealistic aspirations.  How can the narrative, haptic, ephemeral potential of the wild forests and spoil tips be annealed with the vast, ageless exhilaration of space?  What is the language of a space station, here?  The thesis has aimed to investigate the power of the unexpected to provoke alternative thinking.


Space Valley Rhondda Fawr as proposed borders the incredible in its aspiration, for its aim is to surprise expectations, inspire creative engagement and galvanise a community’s belief in its own powerful creative potential.  The dynamism and determined solidarity here amidst the tips, crags and pits of the valley made international the name of Rhondda, whilst in the radical Institutes and Nonconformist Chapels we explored, questioned, engaged with and dared to envision a brighter future.  Our capability and fighting spirit remains.  Rekindle self-belief and inspire aspiration, for tremendous things are possible.  We were – and are – pioneers.  To build structures that test and demonstrate new ideas revalidates the history of dynamic activity and critical thought in the region (refer to Fighting Spirit booklet).


Arising from this thesis, Space Valley Rhondda Fawr is thus a demonstration project for the dynamic potential of the region, with the following objectives:

. To generate excitement and inspiration by siting a Space Station in the Rhondda Fawr – a phased process, beginning with an observatory and community-engagement space; the valley has some of the darkest skies in the region.

. To construct a research facility to investigate how environmentally-friendly Laser Propulsion may eventually enable satellites to be launched from a Space Station sited at the head of the Rhondda Fawr.

. To construct this high-science, space-age facility from local materials, further subverting conventional expectations of a space station.  Specifically, to establish a timber tectonic that can use nearby forestry, and demonstrate the effect of acetylation on improving the durability and poor stability of Welsh softwood.

. To showcase the possibilities of these two new technologies – laser propulsion and acetylated timber – in the unique environment of the Rhondda Fawr.  Space Valley is a partnership between the Rhondda Cosmic Co-Operative of local residents and Cardiff University, working with the European Space Agency and Accoya Timber Engineering.


Space Valley Rhondda Fawr must be totemic of potential, hope and gleaming future as well as exploring its particular raw landscape.  The tectonic attempts to balance between the wind-whipped geometry of sandstone outcrops, the ramshackle timber of early mining tipples, and the lightness of Joseph Beuys’ Scala Napoletana: barely tethered to the earth, or perhaps fallen from space.