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Observation Tower by Birk Heilmeyer & Frenzel Architekten, Hemer, Germany

 The crisply articulated lattice structure of a timber watchtower rises 23.5 metres from the Westphalian landscape

As a microcosmic embodiment of structural and architectural ingenuity, the observation tower is a perennial staple in submissions for the Awards. The version that attracted the jury’s attention this year is a timber structure set on a forested hill on the outskirts of Hemer, just east of the Ruhr in North Rhine-Westphalia.

Originally designed as a landmark for a regional garden festival, the hyperboloid structure comprises 240 timber battens criss-crossing in two directions around the tower to create a crisply articulated lattice structure. Inside, a spiral staircase winds up to an observation deck.
Visible from afar and offering panoramic vistas of Hemer, the 23.5m high tower marks the edge of the town and the transition into the surrounding forest landscape.

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The tower rises from Jüberg hill in the Hemer SauerlandparkThe tower rises from Jüberg hill in the Hemer Sauerlandpark

The laminated timber battens are fabricated from pale Siberian larch with a square section of 80mm. Structural loads diminish as the tower rises, so the lattice expands and becomes more permeable at the top, flaring out like a funnel while minimising its footprint on the ground. Anchored by steel piles, the lattice is entirely self-supporting, with no central mast or additional structural members.
The jury admired the evident thoughtfulness and economy of the structural solution and its beautifully precise execution.

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Architect: Birk Heilmeyer & Frenzel Architekten
Photographer: Christian Richters

 

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