NEXT Architects’ design of a spiralling wooden watchtower has been selected as the winning entry in a competition by the Municipality of Koksijde, a coastal province in Belgium, to emphasise the experience of the landscape in tourist regions.

Called the Hoge Blekker Watchtower after the highest dune on the Belgian coast, it is one of the watchtowers that will be constructed as part of the Horizon 2025 programme.

In conceptualising the landmark tower, NEXT Architects explored the challenge of creating a structure that is eye-catching, but at the same time fluidly blends in with its surroundings. Their design therefore plays upon this tension between landscape and landmark, between integrated and autonomous, between movement and stillness, and between past and present. It builds upon the history of the site and connects to the identity and experience of the dune.

The way up is enclosed by slender wooden beams, which partially shroud the view of the landscape until tourists reach the top, where they can enjoy it in its full glory. The journey downstairs is open to enforce the descending experience. Courtesy of NEXT Architects

Consisting almost entirely out of wood, the silver-grey colour of the ageing wood has a sober look and fits well within the natural grey tones of the dune landscape, while still being attractive through the expressive shape.

However, the architectural form is striking. In the sand of the dunes, a raised plateau marks the base of the tower from where the transparent, refined structure spirals upwards. A helix-shaped staircase leads visitors up to a second plateau, 20 metres high, to experience the view of the horizon.

A raised plateau marks the base of the tower from where the helix-shaped staircase spirals upwards to a second plateau, 20 metres above the ground. Courtesy of NEXT Architects

2 routes, 2 different experiences
The experience is intensified by the existence of two routes: The way up is enclosed by slender wooden beams, which partially shroud the view of the landscape until tourists reach the top, where they can enjoy it in its full glory. The journey downstairs is open to enforce the descending experience. This interplay between open and closed, and between extrovert and introvert, reinforces the experience of the landscape and of the tower itself.

For the tower’s construction NEXT is collaborating with Miebach Consulting, a German engineering office that specialises in the use of wood as a construction material.

Full thanks and acknowledgement are given to NEXT Architects for the information provided to write this article, as well as the images supplied.

A drawing of the Hoge Blekker Watchtower. Courtesy of NEXT Architects

Project facts
Programme: Landmark
Architect/designer: NEXT Architects
Construction advisor: Ingenieurbüro Miebach
Location: Koksijde, Belgium
Height: 21m
Main material: Wood

Caption main image: The Hoge Blekker Watchtower will consist almost entirely out of a silver-grey colour wood that fits well within the natural grey tones of the dune landscape.
Courtesy of NEXT Architects

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