The Al Wathba Wetland Reserve located 40 kilometers southeast of Abu Dhabi. Established in 1998, it is comprised of five square kilometers of wetlands, salt flats, and fossilized sands and dunes. The reserve is known for an array of plant and animal species, such as the black-winged stilt and the indigenous spiny-tailed lizard. The Al Wathba Wetland Reserve's most notable visitors are the flamingo flocks that migrate here each winter by the thousands. Flamingos stay close to salty bodies of shallow water, build their nests at the water's edges, and search for food within the water.
The Abu Dhabi Flamingo Observation Tower competition tasked participants with proposing designs for a flamingo observation platform and connecting boardwalk. Intended as a new architectural landmark for the wetlands, the platform will supplement the reserve's existing visitor experience center, network of trails, and a bird hide. The competition brief asked that the bird observation platform be limited to a floor area of 400 m² and height of 12m, that it be durable, easy to maintain, and handicapped-accessible. Modular assembly and total construction costs estimated at a limit of US $200,000 were advised.
The jury reviewed competition entries based on environmental-responsibility, energy-efficient construction methods that considered minimal excavation and limited road access given the site's remote location within the Al Wathba Wetland Reserve.
This competition is part of Bee Breeders' design competition series focused on small-scale architecture. It is run in partnership with ARCHHIVE BOOKS, which will publish a forthcoming book on the topic of small-scale architecture in 2020, as well as in partnership with the Environmental Agency of Abu Dhabi. Winning design competition entries will be considered for construction.
Bee Breeders thanks all the design competition participants. While small-scale architecture limits size, it certainly does not limit creativity. As can be seen in the entries highlighted here, demands on small-scale design also incentivize new ways of thinking about material applications and methods of construction.
Jury feedback summary
'Flamingo Dreams' turns the typical boardwalk into an experiential promenade. A steel frame is set on a forest of thin vertical members. The structure is topped with a metal grill deck and balustrade with an infill of mesh, and then covered by a shell of palm leaves. The form at once resembles a bird's nest and a thicket of grass. The introductory rendering is especially intriguing, and makes one wonder, how to see the surroundings from within? In fact it hides visitors from the view of birds and allows views through openings in the palm-leaf shell. The jury would like to see this project taken to the next level with a further study of the structure - is it possible to rethink the structure made of a material greener than metal?