Ornithological Observatory / Manuel Fonseca Gallego

© Luís Prieto Sáenz de Tejada

Location: , Spain
Construction: Empresa de Transformación Agraria, S. A. (Delegación de La Rioja)
Promoter: Confederación Hidrográfica del Ebro (Ministerio de Medio Ambiente, y Medio Rural y Marino)
Completion: 2009
Administration budget: 117,822.20 €
Photographs: Luís Prieto Sáenz de Tejada

© Luís Prieto Sáenz de Tejada

The idea of an ornithological observatory, a unique and eminently landscaping object located in a well established urban surrounding belongs to the promoter, who proposed several locations within an area of outstanding beauty. After a detailed frame photographic analysis, we chose the most suitable location we considered, among other reasons, because it’s a strategic point for the detailed observation of a large number of migratory birds without altering their natural habitat. The rest consisted in locating it between two magnificent tree specimens to ensure that the volume was fully integrated with the riverside’s vegetation as an element itself. The choice for the material seemed clear. Wood was the most interesting construction component.

© Luís Prieto Sáenz de Tejada

The project was presented as a conceptual exercise to the fourth-year architecture course of I-PAO (International Projects Advanced Architecture Organization), a research workshop of the School of Art and Architecture of the European University of Madrid, belonging to the Project Chair of Ph D. Chair Prof. Jose Luis Esteban Penelas and organized by Ph D. Chair Prof. José Luis Esteban Penelas and professor Manuel Fonseca Gallego, receiving a great interest from the students due to the fact that it was a real constructible project, providing really outstanding results for the superb quality of their work. Once we selected the two most appropriate proposals, we proceeded to a shared tutoring, leading to the result that we presented.

© Luís Prieto Sáenz de Tejada

The main concept is to consider the item as a big box beam bounded by four planes, the lower horizontal one and the rest formed by ruled surfaces. The constructive composition of these planes is set with wooden planks arranged irregularly, covering the surface partially, as a “sell”, so we dip ourselves into the dream world of nests, recreating a surreal atmosphere with lights and indoor shadows.

© Luís Prieto Sáenz de Tejada

The piece rests on top of the hill and crosses the forest’s mass with a powerful cantilever (12 m approx.), poking surprisingly between the vegetation, surpassing the river’s vertical edge.


Originally, the observatory’s implantation area was not accessible to the public, enclosed by a balustrade and a slope of approximately 5 meter height difference between the walk’s pavement floor and the normal flow of the river Ebro. For this reason, the project also includes the construction of a walkway, parallel to the river, merging with the object itself and entering the exterior-interior continuity through the wood, becoming the unique and exclusive constructive protagonist.

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* Location to be used only as a reference. It could indicate city/country but not exact address.
Cite: "Ornithological Observatory / Manuel Fonseca Gallego" 02 Jan 2012. ArchDaily. Accessed 23 Sep 2014. <http://www.archdaily.com/?p=196554>


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