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Competition: Kemeri Observation Tower, Latvia

An open international contest is being held for a new $50,000 accessible viewpoint within Latvia’s Kemeri National Park (Deadline: 27 April)

The competitions seeks ‘cost-effective, environmentally responsible and energy efficient’ proposals for an observation tower connected to the 1.4 kilometre-long Great Kemeri Bog Boardwalk (pictured) which can host at least 10 people and two wheelchair users at one time. 

The call for ideas, organised by BeeBreeders, aims to generate accessible and easy-to-construct solutions for a new viewpoint capable of being constructed without heavy machinery or large-scale excavation in a remote area with no road access. Proposals should also be modular and easily adaptable to different footbridge lengths.

Kemeri National Park

Kemeri National Park

Kemeri National Park

According to the brief: ‘Participants are asked to submit designs that are in keeping with the nature park and are sensitive to its environment. However, the final project should also have the potential to become a recognised landmark in its own right. The tower should also be highly durable, vandalism-proof, easily-repairable, and should operate effectively in this highly humid region.

‘The main feature that designs should focus on is accessibility, meaning that disability and wheelchair access are paramount. This will require some creative thinking as lifts are not an option as there will be no electricity on-site. The tower’s purpose is to offer incredible views of the magnificent landscape for all visitors, not just those that are more physically able than others.’

With around 54 per cent of its land covered in forest, Latvia is home to a diverse ecosystem, which includes rare black storks, otters, beavers, lynx, and wolves; as well as large numbers of deer, wild boar, elk and red fox. Protected wildlife zones account for approximately a fifth of the country.

Eco-tourism is a growing trend in the region, and Bee Breeders previously launched separate competitions for a guesthouse and spa offering blue-clay treatments in rural western Latvia; an observation tower at the Pape Nature Park; and a meditation retreat in the eastern region of Vidzeme.

Kemeri National Park

Kemeri National Park

Kemeri National Park

Kemeri is Latvia’s third-largest national park and is located around one hour from the capital Riga by train. The bogland habitat features a large network of wooden boardwalks which allow visitors to explore its unique ecosystem.

The latest project aims to create a new accessible tower allowing all visitors to the park to experience the landscape from a new perspective. Proposals may be of any height but must be fully accessible and may not include a lift.

The competition language is English and anonymous submissions should include four A2-sized display boards featuring plans, sections, elevations, diagrams and renders.

The overall winner will receive a $3,000 prize while a second prize of $1,500, third prize of $500, student prize of $500 and accessibility prize of $500 will also be awarded.

How to apply

Deadline

The registration deadline is 27 April and the deadline for submissions is 31 May

Fee

$70 Students
$90 Professionals

Contact details

Email: hello@beebreeders.com

Visit the competition website for more information

Bird Observation Tower on Graswarder case study: Q&A with Volkmar Sievers

The associate partner at Architekten von Gerkan, Marg und Partner discusses lessons learned designing a new viewpoint for coastal Germany

Volkmar Sievers

Volkmar Sievers

Source: Image by Timmo Schreiber

Volkmar Sievers

How did your project deliver an appropriate viewing platform for the peninsula of Graswarder?

The observation tower is a landmark and visible for everyone from miles away. No trees can hide the building, so the design had to be a very special one. During the opening ceremony, Professor von Gerkan compared it to the Eiffel Tower in Paris. This is also visible from everywhere in the metropolis. The shape is based on triangles. The top is orientated to the protected birds area.

Bird Observation Tower on Graswarder by Architekten von Gerkan, Marg und Partner

Bird Observation Tower on Graswarder by Architekten von Gerkan, Marg und Partner

Source: Image by Marcus Bredt

Bird Observation Tower on Graswarder by Architekten von Gerkan, Marg und Partner

Which architectural, material, visual and other methods did you harness in your design?

We used natural materials such as wood so the observation tower became part of the protected landscape. The observation deck has a determined opening where visitors can achieve the best views of those areas where the birds live and nest. The stairs for climbing up to the upper deck are covered with wooden planks that hide people from the birds.

Bird Observation Tower on Graswarder by Architekten von Gerkan, Marg und Partner

Bird Observation Tower on Graswarder by Architekten von Gerkan, Marg und Partner

Source: Image by Marcus Bredt

Bird Observation Tower on Graswarder by Architekten von Gerkan, Marg und Partner

What advice would you have to contest participants on designing a new tower for Kemeri in Latvia?

First of all, you have to visit the site and make research the nature, the trees, the necessary height of the observation platform and the direction and view angle for the visitors. Please be aware that animals like birds are very shy and don’t accept human visitors. So the observation deck has to be designed like a shelter, where people aren’t visible to the birds. Small slots have to be provided but with excellent view angles. For camera and binocular users, it’s useful to provide benches to sit on and deep railings to lean them on.

Bird Observation Tower on Graswarder by Architekten von Gerkan, Marg und Partner

Bird Observation Tower on Graswarder by Architekten von Gerkan, Marg und Partner

Source: Image by Marcus Bredt

Bird Observation Tower on Graswarder by Architekten von Gerkan, Marg und Partner

River Mur Observation Tower case study: Q&A with Klaus K Loenhart

The director of Terrain: Integral Designs discusses lessons learned creating a new observation tower in Austria

Klaus K Loenhart

Klaus K Loenhart

Klaus K Loenhart

How did your project deliver an appropriate viewing platform for the River Mur?

Overlooking the Mur River along the southern edge of Austria and the fringe of the former Iron Curtain, a different kind of tower now invites day hikers to ascend 168 steps and enjoy the view. With this daring landmark, commissioned by the local municipality of Gosdorf, a double staircase is spiralling up to the breezy treetops.

The access and construction principle of the Mur Tower is based on the idea of a double helix that is perceived as a continuous path rising up through the trees. The idea of viewing is extended as a bodily experience. With this spiralling movement, ‘a bodily experience is unfolding’ of being part of the landscape, a 360-degree environment. The passage through nature is simply verticalised and becomes panoramic as you move through this spiralling path.

River Mur Observation Tower by Terrain: Integral Designs

River Mur Observation Tower by Terrain: Integral Designs

Source: Image by Hubertus Hamm

River Mur Observation Tower by Terrain: Integral Designs

Which architectural, material, visual and other methods did you harness in your design?

At first glance, the tower’s 27m-tall and 9m-wide structure may resemble an amorphous nest of beams and cables, but the irregularity is an illusion. Repeating components and nodal geometries form three primary elements: an external frame of hollow-steel structural members; an internal web of steel cables; and two helical stairways—cantilevered from the outer frame—that meet at the top. All 21 ‘knots,’ or structural joints, share the exact same configuration and geometry, which helped control manufacturing costs.

River Mur Observation Tower by Terrain: Integral Designs

River Mur Observation Tower by Terrain: Integral Designs

Source: Image by Marc Lins

River Mur Observation Tower by Terrain: Integral Designs

What advice would you have to contest participants on designing a new tower for Kemeri in Latvia?

While the Murturm seems to be quite sculptural in its appearance, it is as much an experiential passage. I would suggest drawing on the idea of a passage, of staging the approach of the ‘outlook’ in time. The process of reaching the top is as much a memorable experience as reaching the ‘top’.

River Mur Observation Tower by Terrain: Integral Designs

River Mur Observation Tower by Terrain: Integral Designs

Source: Image by Marc Lins

River Mur Observation Tower by Terrain: Integral Designs