Nestled within the wetlands at the southern edge of Pape Lake, the Pape Bird Observation Tower melds architecture and landscape to create a unique sense of place. The concept for the design is centered on the idea of creating an architectural promenade defined by a series of platforms and vertical circulation elements that create an ever-changing perspective of the surrounding landscape as observers ascend. Approaching the tower from the south, observers are greeted by a gently sloping boardwalk that passes through the base of the tower and terminates at the lower observation platform. From this platform observers are reoriented back towards the tower and encouraged to continue advancing by an exterior stairway that directs them up the side of tower. From the landing at the top of the stairway, observers are directed back into the tower and led up a stairway that weaves in and out of the tower’s structural frame and culminates at the cantilevered upper observation platform. The material palette selected for the design is based on materials that will weather well over time and allow for the tower to sympathetically blend with the surrounding landscape. The main structural element of the tower is wood that is left exposed to the elements and takes inspiration from local vernacular construction traditions. The exposed end grains of the wood are articulated with metal end caps. A single sloped roof clad with weathered steel provides shade and shelter for bird observers at the top observation platform. Far too often architecture tends to be about the building itself with no respect for the context in which it is placed. Recognizing that this is not an appropriate response the new tower defers to the context to enhance the allure of the landscape rather than detract from it.
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