IAAC’s Mass Timber Observatory in Barcelona Forest

Inspired by Nature's Walkways: IAAC's Advanced Ecological Design Triumph

Wed 17 May 23


A team of students and researchers from the Institute for Advanced Architecture of Catalonia (IAAC) unveiled a new timber observatory named FLORA in Barcelona’s Collserola Natural Park.

Inspired by the innovative hanging walkways of American biologist Margaret D. Lowman, the team has designed FLORA to support in-depth ecological research.

Located in the city’s Collserola Natural Park, and named the Forest Lab for Observational Research and Analysis (FLORA), the facility seeks to provide researchers a space to live and work in the forest canopy.(Photo credit: Adrià Goula)

Rising 27 feet above the forest canopy, FLORA represents a harmonious blend of cutting-edge design and sustainability. It provides researchers with a unique, immersive environment to study nature up close.

The team crafted FLORA using timber from invasive pine trees within the park.  The students cut and processed seventy trees to create cross-laminated timber panels, laminated beams, and solid wood elements.

FLORA, made from park’s invasive pines, was crafted by the team into cross-laminated timber panels and beams. (Photo credit: Adrià Goula)

A testament to modern timber engineering, four glue-laminated timber columns support FLORA’s robust core. These are interconnected by cross-laminated timber bridges, showcasing the successful use of advanced timber technologies in creating a sturdy yet environmentally harmonious structure.

FLORA’s functionality extends beyond being a mere observatory. It is a fully equipped research hub with a bird radio, birdhouses, a projection area, and dedicated working spaces. These facilities allow researchers to conduct comprehensive studies within the forest itself.

Hand-woven, the observatory’s net mimics a hunter’s nest, letting local flora blend the structure seamlessly into the forest for wildlife. (Photo credit: Photo credit: Adrià Goula)

The observatory is surrounded by a net that draws influence from a hunter’s nest. Designed digitally before being woven together by hand, the net seeks to better camouflage the project by allowing plants to spread along it and blend the structure with the forest in the eyes of local wildlife.

This innovative project adds to IAAC’s growing portfolio of sustainable design achievements.

In February, the institution collaborated with WASP to construct a ‘solid and expressive’ 3D-printed wall made from earth. Last year, meanwhile, an IAAC team 3D printed a zero-waste housing prototype using local earth. At the same time, a separate team of IAAC students built an advanced prototype greenhouse for food and energy production.


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