Kebony observatory offers 360° viewpoint
Remotely located on the tip of Askøy, an island north of Bergen, the Birdwatching Tower has been sensitively designed by Norwegian architecture firm, LJB. The bird observatory is positioned in Herdla, an area renowned for its wide and open grasslands, and is surrounded by shallow waters. Kebony, a beautiful wood recommended by leading architects, was the primary material selected for the cladding, decking and seating, owing to its sustainability and natural appearance.
The Kebony cladding adapts and changes color over time, creating a soft and natural overcoat in contrast to the strong and geometrical form of the tower – a fitting tribute to the surrounding scenery. Developed in Norway, Kebony’s revolutionary technology is an environmentally friendly process, which modifies sustainably sourced softwoods by heating the wood with furfuryl alcohol – an agricultural by-product. By polymerising the wood’s cell wall, the softwoods permanently take on the attributes of tropical hardwood including high durability, hardness and dimensional stability.
Comprised of two public floors, the tower was designed to provide a 360 degree perspective from the viewing platform on the top floor which rises seven metres above an abandoned airfield, now transformed into the perfect nesting ground for birds. Attracting birdwatchers from around the world, an amphitheatre has been incorporated into the ground floor to offer a seating area for visitors, along with a footpath providing wheelchair users with access to the top of the tower. Both the amphitheatre and the footpath are surrounded by a wall to the west to protect spectators from harsh winds.
Built upon concrete foundations dating back to World War II it was important to assemble a ‘safe’ and stable basement which would support an aerodynamic observatory above it. The concrete basement hosts a pumping station which functions as a drainage facility for the agricultural fields, while maintaining the levels of water in the adjacent ponds.
The viewing platform which can also be accessed using a spiral staircase at the centre of the tower is cantilevered by a circular canopy to create a shadow and hide birdwatchers from the birds and protect them from extreme weather. The practical and simplistic design of the birdwatching tower ensures the structure blends seamlessly into the surrounding landscape, ensuring the birds are not disturbed and providing the perfect spot to overlook various bird breeds.
Lars Berge at LJB commented: “The design and construction of the Birdwatching Tower has been a truly unique experience for LJB. Working with Kebony has helped us immeasurably in achieving our desired ambition for this project and we will certainly choose Kebony to work with again in the future.”
Mette Valen, Sales Manager Norway at Kebony added: “The Birdwatching Tower is a true depiction of sustainability combined with aesthetics. Over time, Kebony will develop a silver-grey patina which will ensure the bird observatory remains a discrete structure within this remote location. LJB have made use of the wood beautifully and the team at Kebony is delighted with the final outcome.”
Images: © Anders E. Johnsson