In a forest in the east of the Netherlands one of the best architecture offices in the Netherlands has just completed a new lookout tower. The structure is part of a small park in the vicinity of the village Putten. The concept that the architect, SeARCH, has put forward works like this: take a circular piece of the forest and put it 36 meters up in the sky. From this elevated ground there is a 360 degree view over the forest, in which cities like Amersfoort appear at the horizon.
As the tower is not only located in the forest, but is actually a part of it, the tower has been named ‘Bostoren’; Forest Tower. To maintain the little forest in the air, the lookout platform has been fitted with soil, a layer of it. There where the trees have been positioned, the soil has some more depth. As trees grow as big as their roots, the landscape architects expect the trees to not grow that high. The forest at the platform will be a kind of Bonzai forest. It is engineered smallness.
What goes up for the trees, goes up for the foundations of the tower too. A concrete disc of about the same size as the lookout platform ensures the stability of the tower structure. Large cantilevers require large foundations.
Since the tower by law is not regarded a building but a structure, the regulations a building has attain to don’t go up here. The structural engineers say their main concern was to avoid visitors from feeling the tower move. I am not sure what that would mean in rough weather. On my visit you could feel the circular stairs swinging with every large step.
What’s peculiar about the design by SeARCH is that the journey to the top of the tower is just as fun, or even more fun, than being on the platform itself. At your climb every so much stairs there is something going on. First there are the ‘English stairs’, stairs that make a big circle outside of the tower. Then there is a big wooden room that from the outside is dotted with nest boxes. At the inside very small, round windows allow you to see into the boxes. The room is like a big boudoir from which you spy on the bird’s just doing their thing. Very voyeuristic.
Again a little higher, there a stairs cantilevering from the trunk outwards that contract on your way up, and expand on your way down. With the top in sight you stumble upon a room that features a ribbon floor and a view to the ground below. The sturdiness of the net allows you to walk it like floor. Very cool and not as scary as it looks. Then, right under the lookout platform, on top of the-room-with-the-ribbon-floor, there is a slanting balcony. Everything comes in two here. The horizon, the forest, the platform, even yourself: everything is mirrored and distorted in the underside of the platform. Absolutely sublime.
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