This past week, the Dutch Society for the Preservation of Natural Heritage received a new observation tower during the mini-symposium ‘Experience Nature with innovative concrete’ in Peize. A multidisciplinary case study team comprised of UNStudio, ABT, BAM Utiliteitsbouw and Haitsma Beton were experimenting with the characteristics of ultra high performance concrete – a super dense mixture of fine grain structure which contains steel fibers – to manifest their findings in a functional, operative design. The observation tower will rest in the forested reserves of De Onlanden in Groningen and will extend 5 meters above the tree line to offer amazing views of the landscape.
More about the tower after the break.
For a firm whose work manages to maintain a sleek aesthetic no matter the form or scale of the project, the observation tower granted the team of UNStudio’s Inventive Materials Platform (one of their four in-house research platforms) the ability to investigate custom-made material applications and facilitate an imaginative collaboration with other experts and manufacturers in the construction industry.
The tower’s sweeping curves guide visitors in a fluid ascent up the 134 steps to the highest viewing point. After the first set of steps, visitors enjoy a lower viewing platform which stands at a height of 10 meters. Following this, the second set of steps provides a turn in direction, allowing for an alternative view of the surrounding forested pastures. These steps lead visitors through the tree tops to the second viewing platform, which stands at a height of 20 meters, and then, finally to the highest viewing platform at a height of 24 meters.
Ben van Berkel explained, “The Netherlands enjoys a rich and textured natural landscape, but unfortunately the Dutch topography is not very varied; we don’t have mountain ranges, or many hilly areas from which to enjoy a panoramic overview of our natural surroundings. The viewing tower for ‘De Onlanden’ was designed to provide the opportunity to create a new awareness and different perspectives of the landscape we move through, but may otherwise never experience in all its scope.”
In terms of construction, this hybrid structure uses a combination of steel to combat tensile stresses and Ultra High Performance Concrete for where the compressive stresses are highest. The parapet around the stairs and platforms is constructed from stainless steel mesh, enabling the combination of both maximum transparency and necessary safety levels.
The lines of the tower recall the silhouette of a deer so UNStudio’s design has therefore been given the (provisional) name ‘Het Hoge Hert’ or The Tall Stag.
Observation Tower, ‘De Onlanden’, Groningen, Netherlands, 2011
Client: Natuurmonumenten Location: Outskirts of Drenthe (near City of Groningen, Eelde and Peize)
Height: 25 m No. of steps: 134 Program: Observation Tower Status: design
UNStudio (Ben van Berkel with Arjan Dingsté and Marianthi Tatari, Marc Hoppermann, Kristoph Nowak, Tomas Mokry, Dorus Faber) with Case Study Partners (ABT, Haitsma Beton, BAM Utiliteitsbouw)