National parks drastically vary in their size and scope all over the world, with each different location influencing the architecture, structure, and attractions available for visitors. From lucious gardens, hotels and houses, to repurposed bridges and giant stone towers, the architecture within national parks is telling of its individual characteristics, as well as the tourists that come to visit.

Park Güell, Barcelona

Located on Carmel Hill in Barcelona, Park Güell is a public park system composed of gardens and architectonic elements. Built between 1900 and 1914, the park was based on designs by then-renowned architect, and the face of Catalan modernism, Antoni Gaudi. Declared a World Heritage Site in 1984, Park Güell is the reflection of Gaudí's artistic plenitude, which belongs to his naturalist phase.

Built between 1900 and 1914, Park Güell was based on designs by the face of Catalan modernism, Antoni Gaudi. Image source

Originally conceived by Gaudi and Eusebi Güell (from whom the park gets its name), it is situated within a natural park, and was envisioned to contain an organised grouping of high-quality homes.

Park Güell was declared a World Heritage Site in 1984. Image source

In the design of Park Güell, Gaudí unleashed all his architectonic genius and put to practice much of his innovative structural solutions that would become the symbol of his organic style and that would culminate in the creation of the Basilica and Expiatory Church of the Holy Family.

High Trestle Bridge, Iowa, USA

High Trestle Trail is a trail that runs through Iowa, USA. Opened on 30th April, 2011, the paved recreational trail runs from Ankeny to Woodward and derived its name from a former 1913 bridge that spanned the Des Moines River in that region. According to the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation, approximately 3,000 people use the trail each week, and it is a major component of a planned pair of 100-mile loops that will meet near the Des Moines River.

The High Trestle Bridge crosses the famous Des Moines River. Image source

The High Trestle bridge is 40 metres high and 770 metres long (that’s roughly 13 stories up and half a mile across), and it provides visitors scenic views along the famous Des Moines River Valley. Originally built in the 1970s to carry rail traffic on a Milwaukee Road line, the bridge is located near mining shafts that were worked by Italian immigrant families and others who settled nearby.

When the bridge was retired in the early 2000s, the original bridge deck was removed and its steel I-beams were repurposed for a new Union Pacific bridge in Boone, Iowa. However, the trestles remained in place, and the original piers are currently used to support a new deck designed for pedestrian and cycle traffic.

The High Trestle Bridge’s original bridge deck was removed but the trestles remained in place, and the original piers are currently used to support a new deck design for pedestrian and cycle traffic. Image source

The bridge decking also incorporates a decorative structure that represents the view through a mine shaft, and its design includes lighting that remains on until midnight. The bridge was even titled as one of the eight amazing footbridges in the world by the BBC in April, 2015.

Shark Valley Tower, Florida Everglades, USA

Everglades National Park in Florida, USA was established to protect the southern 20% of the original everglades. As the largest tropical wilderness in the entire United States, the park is visited by roughly 1 million visitors each year, and has been declared an International Biosphere Reserve, a World Heritage Site, and a Wetland of International Importance, one of only three locations in the world to appear on all three lists.

Shark Valley Tower is the start and end of a 15-mile loop trail in Everglades National Park. Image source

The Shark Valley Tower is the beginning (and end) of a 15-mile loop trail through Shark Valley, constructed in 1946 when Humble Oil drilled for oil in the region. Thankfully, the oil company found oil wells not to be profitable enough and so the land joined the national park system.

The Shark Valley Tower was constructed in 1946 after the land was included in the national park system. Image source

In order to build the trail, workers dug a trench alongside the road, then used dirt to slightly elevate the path. The trench was then filled with water, which became the perfect habitat for wildlife during the winter months when the rest of the Everglades dries out.

Kemeri National Park Observation Tower

As one of the largest national parks in Latvia, Kemeri National Park is calling for submissions for a new observation tower. The tower, which is proposed for construction along the Great Kemeri Bog Boardwalk, will allow greater accessibility for those visiting the park with disabilities.

It is a chance for architecture enthusiasts to design a project that takes advantage of the stunning scenery afforded by the national park, and places a strong focus on ensuring that every visitor will be able to experience it to the same degree.

The Kemeri National Park Observation Tower architecture competition is now open until April 27, 2018. As the Nature Conservation Agency has expressed an interest in the construction of this tower, winning designs will be put forward for consideration for construction. Visit for further information.

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