The Oostvaardersplassen is a protected ecological wetland-area: so, how to make a visitor centre that makes the inaccessible accessible? By lifting the program above the level of the forest, like an observation hut adapted to the scale of the area, the visitor to the nature centre is offered a panorama over the protected ecological area.At the same time the building functions as a landmark, visible from afar.
The Oostvaardersplassen is a protected ecological wetland-area that lies between Almere and Lelystad next to the Markermeer. Bird watchers and visitors to the wetlands have limited access, an understandable attempt to conserve and protect the nature. The forestry department of the Netherlands is faced with a paradox: how to make a visitor centre that makes the inaccessible accessible?
By lifting the program above the level of the trees - an observation hut adapted to the scale of the Oostvaardersplassen - the visitor is offered a panorama over the protected ecological area, the neighbouring Markermeer and the lake behind the dyke. On arrival, the building disappears behind a mass of green. Wandering between the trees on a boardwalk, the visitor 'discovers' the centre.
Three fragile supports, 2 stairs and 1 lift, form the access to the building. The observation tower is directly accessed by a glass lift. On exiting the lift, one enters a 4-meter high outer passage with a 100% glass panorama window. The visitor is invited by the widening passage to the north side of the building and a view over the trees to the Markermeer. The restaurant is situated at this point, with tables that flow out into the walkway, a street cafe at 40 meters above the trees.
Apart from the fantastic view, the outer passage connects the nature shop, restaurant, exposition area and auditorium. The centre will become a venue for not only nature lovers, but for businesses that rent it for day conferences. Its shiny metal appearance is referring to the artificiality of the polder, a broad open flat land where the horizon is only punctuated by windmills and high-voltage powerlines. It monumentalises the new nature of the Oostvaardersplassen.