Viewing Tower

Viewing Tower in Reusel, the Netherlands by Ateliereen architecten, 2009.

Six asymmetrically stacked boxes define this viewing platform that marks the entrance to a recreational area near the small town of Reusel in the Netherlands. About 50 such spots are marked in the country, but this tower designed by Ateliereen architecten is probably the most eye-catching marker, and maybe the most diverse in terms of function. In addition to marking an area to explore on foot, by mountain bike, or by horse, the 25-meter-high (82 feet) tower incorporates climbing and rappelling.

While the tower is asymmetrical, the cantilevered boxes are organized around a simple stair. This vertical circulation acts as a core, like much bigger towers, to provide access to three of the six cubes; at the top people can enjoy expansive views of the surrounding landscape. Speaking of core, the stair is also the place where the primary vertical structure is located. Standard steel sections, all galvanized, are used for columns and beams, the latter cantilevered from this middle. Steel is also used for guardrails and the floors (pressed plates), but the rest of the tower is wood.

While the steel structure allows for the height, the slender form, and the cantilevered boxes, it is the wood that gives the tower its character. The architects sourced the wood from the surrounding production forest, covering the various boxes in logs, halved and stripped. According to the architects, in this regard the tower is "an addition to the site, but also a local product." The exposure and orientation of the logs are also important, reinforcing the way the boxes rotate as they rise. From the bottom, the first and fourth boxes are special: the former features whole logs cut and exposed in their section; the latter runs the cut logs vertically, as if to visually connect the bottom and top with an upward swoop.

Added to one side of the tower is the gear for climbing. In the realm of the wood-covered, steel-structured tower, the colorful protrusions common to most climbing walls are an alien presence. It seems like a missed opportunity to not develop a means for climbing with their palette, mainly using the logs as a means to grab and ascend the tower. Regardless, this intervention is not major, and giving the tower more function than just viewing is one of the most commendable aspects of the project.

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