Telescope enclosures are a very particular type of buildings. They must fulfill an unusual set of requirements, which may be briefly outlined as follows:
In Appendix one finds a brief description of the enclosure designed by the author for the ESO VLT 8-m telescopes, which illustrates in particular all the practical aspects related with servicing and maintainance that must be taken into account in the design of these buildings.
With all its multifold requirements the design process of a telescope enclosure is a complex matter which should require a rigorous concurrent engineering approach. A main task within this process is constituted by the system analysis of the interaction of the enclosure characteristics with the optical performance of the telescope. Very schematically, the design process may be illustrated by the figure below.
Figure: Schematic of the concurrent engineering process required for the design of telescope enclosures
The next section outlines the evolution of engineering and design concepts for telescope enclosures during the past 20 years. Some case histories will illustrate the main problems associated with the design of these special buildings.