ETH Zurich's weekly web journal - auf deutsch
ETH Life - wissen was laeuft ETH Life - wissen was laeuft

ETH Life - wissen was laeuft ETH Life - wissen was laeuft

ETH - Eidgenoessische Technische Hochschule Zuerich - Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich
Section: Science Life
deutsche Version english Version
Print-Version Drucken

Published: 10.06.2004, 06:00
Modified: 09.06.2004, 17:14
For observing the birds: an experimental solid construction
Wood Works

A group of ETH architecture students built a bird observation station for the Hungarian Nature Park Balaton in May 2003. The crux of the experimental, massively built construction was the stratified dome. A booklet documenting the construction in the format of a diary is now published by gta-Verlag.

By Michael Breu

It stands between Zalavár and Balatonmagyaród in the Hungarian moor landscape of Kis Balaton, the "Little Lake Balaton": the architecture of the wooden construction resembles old charcoal burners' dwellings. It has a rustic appearance and fits in perfectly with its natural surroundings, an ideal place from which to observe birds in fact. It was built a little more than a year ago by a group of twenty ETH students of architecture as an "experimental massive construction". The work was overseen by Andrea Deplazes, ETH Professor of Architecture and Construction (1), and Ákos Moravánszky, ETH Professor at the Institute for History and Theory of Architecture (2). A booklet, documenting the construction in the format of a diary, is now published by gta-Verlag (3).

It all began on the Bürgenstock in Switzerland in November 2002. Architecture students attended a class seminar where they worked on twenty designs for an ornithological observation station. Representatives of the hydro-construction and maintenance authorities from Kis Balaton and the Nature Park Balaton had invited the students to the seminar. "We had to submit a proposal to the Hungarian authorities by March 2003 that showed, as accurately as possible, how the planned construction would look," is the reason given for involving the students. The design is no easy task – especially if one wants to erect such an experimental construction that has never existed before in these dimensions. This is why, in late winter, a model was made of the station at the ETH Forestry Workshop in Sellenbüren. Different kinds of domes were constructed from layers of slit logs. The design works.

On Saturday evening, the 24th May, we arrive at lake Balaton. On Sunday morning the bus takes us to the "construction site", an idyllic space between the Zala canal, pond and Kis Balaton. But instead of the expected 130 cubic meters of wood only a little pile of a few cubic metres is waiting.

The Kis Balaton (the "Little Lake Balaton") lies at the western point of Balaton in Hungary, between Vienna and Budapest. large

Unpleasant circumstances. The students use the telephone and pass the time speculating about delaying the schedule. But things work out eventually. The wood and cleaving equipment arrives the following day. The perimeter of the planned station is scratched into the ground using a string compass and the first layers of split logs can be laid.


The design works: After a week of hard work the students throw off their gloves. large

It is still possible at this stage to make minor corrections to the submitted ground plan of the station. Then we can begin with the construction of the curved walls. Notched joints are made to secure the ends of the walls and the observation posts in the window recesses.

Three days later, on Thursday, the last logs are put into place, the big dome is finished, and the ornithological observation station is completed.

In high spirits we all climb up onto the dome for a group photo, taking Champagne and glasses with us. The observation station survives this baptism of fire without a whimper.

Approx. 130 cubic meters of acacia wood on a 30 cm thick gravel base: With costs totalling 6,500 CHF the architectural increases added value of the bird observation station by a factor of four to five. large

A month later the station is inaugurated, in the presence of Miklós Persányi, the Hungarian Minister for the Environment and Water Protection. In the recently published booklet "Wood Works“ both ETH professors, Andrea Deplazes and Ákos Moravánszky, pay tribute to the students' work. Deplazes describes the construction as a time machine, a place of transformation. "Nothing enters the world of architecture without passing by the construction site. It is the breeding box of architecture," he says. Deplazes considers the work to be a prime example of "architectural added value". Ákos Moravánszky goes back quite a bit: "Domes have played a part as observation stations since the beginnings of architecture. So it is not surprising that the design for an ornithological observation station in Balaton in Hungary included the construction of one," he writes.

(1) Homepage of Andrea Deplazes, ETH Professor of Architecture and Construction: (a summary of the students' work for "Wood Works“ can be found in the sub-menu "Veranstaltungen")
(2) ETH Institute for History and the Theory of Architecture:
(3) Publishing house "gta-Verlag":

You can write a feedback to this article or read the existing comments.

!!! Dieses Dokument stammt aus dem ETH Web-Archiv und wird nicht mehr gepflegt !!!
!!! This document is stored in the ETH Web archive and is no longer maintained !!!