O b s e r v a t i o n

Latvia | 2017 | Anna Gassner | Bogi Kovács | Zsolt Krausz


Even though a tower -by its very nature- tries to detach itself from its surroundings, the encompassing landscape as primary context for the design is not to be neglected. Relating to the surroundings is complicated by the fact that wetlands keep changing their shoreline, drawing an ever so slightly different contour every year.

It is in this constantly changing frontier between water and mainland, that we found a recurring peninsula adjacent to the former tower, that we propose as the new building site. Slightly modifying the design brief’s intentions in this regard, we obtained a placement for better observation due to the peninsular formation of the land, that takes you out of the shore line, onto the surface of the lake. The tower connects with the main road via a footbridge that runs along the existing water channel. Being visible from a distance, it can also act as a start-return sign on the Natural Process Path of the park.


With this project we embarked on a search for elements that would resonate with the values of the natural surroundings, as well as of the people who would use and maintain the building. I felt obvious from the beginning that the right approach is to use building techniques close to traditional, erect rudimentary structures made of locally available, natural materials.

In searching for historic references of towers, our mind goes to the bare, utilitarian structures of the iconic water towers of American film studios. Their simple working principle is very much reflected in their minimalist composition, a closed tank of water elevated on a skeletal structure that provides pressurized domestic water. Following this line of thought there is a list of analogies that share the same idea. Lighthouses, that are a pedestal with a light-source on top, however this time the position is needed to be seen, contrary with an observatory tower, where you need to see out of. Not only buildings but also objects adopt this concept. Take for instance a bar stool, it is nothing but a physical elevation of a function, a solid seating on a slim structure.

It is this vocabulary of straightforward elements that led us to design the Bird Observatory Tower as nothing but a closed room elevated to a point from where an unencumbered line of sight is enabled. It is this primary, yet strong character that makes the building stand out, as well as be a part of the landscape.


We used wood as our primary material in constructing the tower, in both structural and non-structural role. The base of the tower is inspired by the crossing pattern of the common reed stems, that offers a visually dynamic but stable structure for the body, resembling a bird house with their characteristic small openings. The wooden structure rests on pillion foundations.

C O M P E T I T I O N 

International Architecture Competition

Pape Bird Observation Tower





Poles & Pillars

Honourable Mention

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