Bird-Watchers Will Be Flying High Once This Stunning Tower Is Complete

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By Kelly Dawson
The winning entry for a bird observational tower in Latvia sets a new bar for how these structures can be built.

An observation tower doesn't necessarily come to mind as something of architectural beauty. The term itself is straightforward, clear in its objective, and it would seem that not much else is needed to achieve it but a high enough perch to look out from. 

And yet, the Pape Bird Observation Tower competition wasn’t looking for a design that simply got the job done. 

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Named for the Pape Nature Park in southwest Latvia—a region made famous by the estimated 250 different kinds of migrating birds that cross these wetlands from Scandinavia, Russia, Europe, and beyond—the international competition called for a reimagining of a standard tower’s use and form. "The jury evaluated entries based on a number of factors, including sensitivity to the environment, potential to serve as a landmark, functionality, construct-ability, and economy," says Sabine Brice, the operations and events manager at Bee Breeders, which organized the competition. It will be the first of a series in collaboration with Latvia’s premiere conservation fund, Pasaules Dabas Fonds

The contest was a creative opportunity that made the best of an unfortunate event: the original tower, built in 1966, burnt down after it was struck by lightning. Therefore, the new tower needed to have a level of protection for humans and animals alike, a divider that shielded the birds from disruption but offered visitors multiple chances to see the 50,000 or so creatures that soar in and out of the area every year. Oh, and of course, it had to look good, too. 

So who won? Berta Risueño Muzás and Manuel Pareja Abascal, a Spanish duo who redefined the tower as a 360-degree sphere that has the ornate qualities of sparkling jewelry and the sensible foresight of two up-close levels. 

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The pair’s use of timber, rope, and aluminum was especially appealing to the judges for their sustainable qualities, as was the understanding that fabrication could be done on or off-site. 

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Plans to build the idea are still underway as funding is collected, approvals are given, and regulations are met. But this Spanish team proved that an observational tower could be a thing of beauty once it steps outside its classic lines. 

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The other submissions were stunning recreations, too. See them below.

Second Place: Jeffrey Clancy from the United States

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Third Place: Tom Mestiri, Hugo Ramos-Guerrero, Simon Barret, and Chloé Meyer from France

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Green Award: Reza Aliabadi and Arman Ghafouri-Azar from Canada

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Student Award: Alicem Öztürk and Konuralp Senol from Bilgi University in Turkey

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