RIVERLANDS/AVIAN/OBSERVATORY//
RIVERLANDS/AVIAN/OBSERVATORY//
RIVERLANDS/AVIAN/OBSERVATORY//
RIVERLANDS/AVIAN/OBSERVATORY//
RIVERLANDS/AVIAN/OBSERVATORY//
RIVERLANDS/AVIAN/OBSERVATORY//
RIVERLANDS/AVIAN/OBSERVATORY//
RIVERLANDS/AVIAN/OBSERVATORY//
RIVERLANDS/AVIAN/OBSERVATORY//
RIVERLANDS/AVIAN/OBSERVATORY//
RIVERLANDS/AVIAN/OBSERVATORY//
RIVERLANDS/AVIAN/OBSERVATORY//
RIVERLANDS/AVIAN/OBSERVATORY//
RIVERLANDS/AVIAN/OBSERVATORY//



RIVERLANDS/AVIAN/OBSERVATORY//

WEST/ALTON//MISSOURI//2013//

//AIA/STL/DISTINGUISHED/ARCHITECTURE/AWARD//
//ACSA/DESIGN-BUILD/AWARD//
//Architizer/A+/Award/Finalist//

The Riverlands Avian Observatory is the result of a design-build studio charged with investigating digital design and fabrication processes. The studio was led by Andrew Colopy and Ken Tracy at Washington University in St. Louis.

Students designed, prototyped, fabricated and constructed a unique bird watching experience for visitors to the Audubon Center at Riverlands along the banks of the Mississippi.

The Riverlands Migratory Bird Sanctuary provides 3,700 acres of protected habitat at a critical juncture along the Mississippi Migratory Flyway. Within the sanctuary, Heron Pond is a constructed wetland that is hydrologically managed by the US Army Corps of Engineers. Stopover or home to more than 300 avian species, birders convene along the water's edge to experience this unique ecology.

Students began by reimagining the surrounding landscape, trail networks, vehicular access and vegetation to minimize the disturbance to sensitive species. The approach also carefully choreographs a sequence of views to the observatory and surrounding landmarks keyed to informational graphics that help to educate visitors while crafting a memorable experience.

On the exterior, students studied ideas of camouflage. But, the intent is not to blend in, just the opposite. Birds aren't bothered by the building, just the activity and presence of people. Instead, the structure stands out from the context to attract visitors while hiding the people within through shaded apertures that blend into the exterior patterning.

Inside, diagonal apertures provide viewing for people of any height. There is also a larger gathering space where Audubon and Corps staff can talk with school groups and a special raised area offering more expansive views. The interior is surfaced with black perforated aluminum, helping to muffle sound and keep the interior dim to hide visitors from view.

The design also contends with the difficult issue of flooding. The adjacent grade was raised four feet, just above flood stage, to help mitigate modest floods while improving visual access to the pond. The project is also constructed of durable materials: concrete foundation, cedar frame, and exterior panels made from aluminum frames clad in Richlite (a resin and paper composite). In a major flood, where floating debris is a concern, these exterior panels are demountable and can be taken to higher ground.

STUDENTS// Nike Cao, Emily Chen, Wassef Dabboussi, Duan Duan, Can Fu, Jina Kim, Masha Konopleva, Chun Liu, Joe Lomas, Yiyang Min, David Orndorff, Yiming Pan, Glenn Park, Chris Quinlin, Yu Rong, James Struthers, Yilong Wang, Nash Waters, Hao Wu, Yao Xia, Yu Xin, Shuojin Yang, Haosheng Zhang, Han Zhu

INSTRUCTORS// Andrew Colopy, Ken Tracy

SUPPORT// The Audubon Center at Riverlands, Paul Bauer, Robert Booth, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Rivers Project Office, Phill Shinn, Washington University in St. Louis Graduate School of Architecture