From Canal Street in New Orleans to a nature preserve in Latvia,
these diverse observation towers look out over everything from bird
sanctuaries to Formula One race tracks. With designs that stand out for
both their brilliance and quirks, these 12 viewing decks in the sky
provide unparalleled views of both urban and rural settings.
Phoenix Observation Tower by BIG Architects
Arizona’s capital city will soon get a 70,000-square-foot addition to
its skyline, a spiraling walkway stretching toward the clouds. Three
glass elevators lead to the helical apex, with retail, exhibition and
recreation spaces at the base. BIG Architects
envision it as a pin on the map, which “becomes a point of reference
and a mechanism to set the landscape in motion through the movement of
Floating Observation Deck for Grand Central Terminal by SOM
A floating ring slides up and down two supporting towers right over New York City’s Grand Central Terminal in this design by SOM.
The moving deck preserves the original 100-year-old station while
rethinking the available space around the building, turning it into a
landmark with 360-degree views of the city.
Leaning Tower of Belgium by Ateliereen Architecten
There’s only one angle from which Ateliereen Architecten’s observation tower
in Belgium looks like it’s standing up straight. Everywhere else, the
30-meter steel and timber tower draped with ribbons of rope appears to
be leaning. The ropes reference the nearby sand dunes in the nature
preserve in which the tower is set.
Observation Tower in Jurmala by Arhis Architects
Observation decks jut out from this lookout tower in Jurmala, Latvia
like balconies from a skyscraper, providing a variety of vantage points
from which to enjoy Dzintaru Park. Consisting of an open-air cage, the
structure reaches to 124.6 feet at its pinnacle.
i360 Observation Tower for Brighton by Marks Barfield Architects
While most lookout towers are positioned in parks, nature preserves and
other natural areas, this one is in a distinctly urban location – the
city of Brighton. Looking out onto both the cityscape and the sea, the
531-foot-tall i360 Tower
will be Britain’s highest observation tower outside of London. The
glass pod that slides up the pole base can accommodate up to 200 people
at a time and takes around 10 minutes to reach the peak.
Rainforest Guardian Skyscraper for the Amazon
Could this lotus-shaped tower (or, as proposed by a team of Chinese
designers, dozens of them) protect vulnerable rainforests from fire? The
also functions as a lookout tower, weather station, scientific research
center and educational laboratory. The tower features ‘aerial root’
piping systems that absorb, store and deliver water when a fire is
detected. The design of the base intends to have the smallest possible
impact on the land.
Nature-Inspired ‘Fibrous Tower’ by SOMA
Dozens of individual tubes make up the basic structure of the Fibrous Tower by Soma,
overlooking the Taichung City Museum in Taiwan. The design is based on
the genetic algorithms of natural growth processes and functions much
like the fibers in a tree trunk or individual stands of muscle that come
together into a strong whole. It’s powered by rooftop solar panels and
features ‘ducts’ for looking out onto the landscape.
Double-Helix Gondola Tower for New Orleans by Perez
Proposed for Canal Street in New Orleans, the Tricentennial Tower
features a double-helix design with individual glass gondolas spiraling
up to the top 320 feet in the air. The movement of the gondolas as well
as the final view in the glass pod provide 360 degree views of the
city. Inspired by the Seattle Needle, the project is envisioned as a
popular tourist attraction, with the goal of being complete by New
Orleans’ 300th birthday celebration in 2018.
Bird Observation Tower in Germany by GMP Architects
An angular observation tower made of Siberian larch evokes the shape
of a bird with just a few triangles suggestive of beaks and feathers.
Located at a seaside resort on the Graswarder peninsula in Germany, the Bird Observation Tower by GMP
is a favorite place for both ornithologists and casual travelers to
watch all of the avian activity on the preserve without disturbing the
Recycled Steel Orbit Tower in London by Anish Kapoor
Sculptor and architect Anish Kapoor added quite an unusual shape to London’s skyline for the 2012 Olympic Games. The twisting ArcelorMittal Orbit tower
is made of 60% recycled steel and reaches a height of 114.5 meters (376
feet). Britain’s largest piece of public art, the tower was inspired by
both the Tower of Babel (with Kapoor stating that he wanted to a
structure with “something mythic about it”) and the movements of an
Circuit of the Americas Tower by Miró Rivera Architects
The city of Austin got a 251-foot-tall tower overlooking
not a nature preserve or even the city itself but rather the 3.4 mile
track at Circuit of the Americas, the nation’s first purpose-built
Formula 1 Grand Prix facility. Red tubes cascade down the side of the
tower to form the roof of the Amphitheater stage, and frame the Main
Grandstand. The lookout at the top features a glass floor and glass
railings, and can hold up to 75 people at a time.
Za’abeel Park Observation Tower by XTEN Architecture
Designed for the ThyssenKrupp elevator competition in Dubai, this tower by XTEN Architecture
juts into the sky from a cultural park just off one of the city’s
busiest streets. The site plan is based on a traditional Islamic
geometric pattern, while the tower itself is comprised of six 30-meter
diameter tubes that act as a ‘circulation system’ containing elevators
and stairways. The tubes expand into three petal-like shapes which
function as open-air observation decks cantilevering 70 meters in each
direction at the top. | Urbanist
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