Pape Bird Observation Tower, Latvia
The Pape Nature Park in south-western Latvia opened in 2003 with the aim of protecting the region’s wetlands. The nearly-11,000 hectare park includes important nesting grounds for 250 species of migrating birds within the marshes situated at the limit between the Papes Lake and the sea. Participants were challenged with designing a new bird observation station in the Park. The observation tower will be used primarily to record annual migratory habits of an estimated 50,000 birds, as well as to allow park visitors the opportunity to observe the birds. In this light, functionality and sustainability were critical considerations. Firstly, the proposed structure must permit users the ability to observe birds and other migratory animals in a manner that is simultaneously protective –visitors must be concealed to some level from frightening off animals – and open to 360-degree views. Secondly, the observation tower must have the capacity to be built with minimal disruption to the Pape Nature Park habitat.
Our design challenges the notion of the tower, as we believe that it would feel like a foreign, insular object within the landscape, acting as an isolated point of destination. We therefore sought to place emphasis on the journey rather than on the destination. The Orniments aim to enable a series of phenomenological experiences by placing woven pods along an integrated pathway. The pods and pathway have been designed to sit comfortably within the natural environment of the bird and not the human.
The lightweight steel grid walkway ensures that the introduction of an access route does not impose any dominance over the landscape. The walkway will be suspended above the flora by means of light steel posts. The use of a permeable grid walkway ensures that the intervention does not hinder plant growth or access to rain and sunlight. Visitors will have the ability to walk amongst the reeds while hovering comfortably over the wetland.
Many of the pods are completely inaccessible to humans, ensuring that the Orniments cater to the needs of the both human and bird visitors in terms of viewing and nesting respectively. The pods are also supported by light steel columns and are created using simple pre-manufactured timber frames, over which wattle is woven in varying degrees of density. The viewing pods have suspended steel grid floors inside. The viewing pods have been designed and placed with the intention of immersing visitors within the realm of the birds. Each viewing pod provides a unique experience whilst still maximising views of the birds and the landscape and providing sheltered areas for viewing and photography. The design of the nesting pods in terms of their enclosed, sheltered interiors and woven wattle shells provide birds with the ideal environment within which to nest.