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Bird Watching in the Chester Meadows

Intersection Point

Duc Hieu Vinh

The lost of environment for birds not only affect birds but also the whole local ecosystem. Recreating habitation for birds is a neccessary task. - When designing Birdwatching tower in Chester Meadow, we not only create an usual watching tower - which only serve the observing demand of people, we also propose a space for local birds - an intergrated space for the communication between human and birds - an idea of sustainable design for both human and the environment. - The mission of the design is to create a space that not only can impress the viewers but can also create a livable space for birds.
1. Current Status
Various and lively ecosystem: Wild birds, insects, flowers appear frequently all over the landscape)
Construction site: On the tip of the meadow which have a wide and overall view of the local landscape (Old quater accross the river and wild environment on the South)
The site is right next to the River Dee - The separate boundary between the wild environment and the urban area accross the river so the architecuture will become an intersection point between nature and human
2. Targets:
Create a landmark for the landscape
Create a suitable point for observing the beauty of local landscape
Create a space where birds can interact freely and naturally with human so the tower will have full basic functions for birds : nesting, landing on.
3. Ideas:
The cover is made of various combination of 1 solid birdnest module - which is replicated on verticle and horizontal structures.
Modules are rotated in various directions and the density of the layer is different on different altitude which will create an interesting facade and also make various shape of voids for birds to interact in different ways.
Experience route:
A linear route penetrate through the construction to create various views and experiences.
The route is designed with limited interation with the cover ( ensure safety for birds)
Level 1 is desgined with a steep route for disabled people.
4. The efficiency of the proposal Modules are easy to produce and diassemble.


Challenge: to design a vernacular bird watching shelter and bird sanctuary in the unique setting of the Chester Meadows.


How can humans occupy spaces that inspire harmony with the natural environment? What can we, as designers, do to accomplish this and create architecture that avoids destruction of the natural world while also benefitting our environmental impact?


We now live in a world where architecture takes valuable resources and causes destruction of the natural environment. We are looking for a design scheme that builds a connection between humans and nature and gives back to our natural surroundings, rather than only taking from them.


Our brief asks for an innovative and creative design focusing on the user experience and connection to the surrounding nature and wildlife with a minimal environmental impact. The challenge is to create a sustainable and a 100% natural structure that sits peacefully within the meadows and allows both humans and birds to share the same space.


The shelter should provide a calm, reflective space for city dwellers to temporarily leave their hectic city lives to reconnect and interact with nature. It also asks for a sanctuary for the native and passing birds of the area. The sanctuary should be a place for birds to take shelter and encourage breeding, with some consideration for the various roosting and dietary needs of differing species.


The Earl's Eye Meadows are a protected grassland and wetland and are home to a number of different species of plants and wildlife. 


The site has a number of constrains and opportunities that make this a particularly interesting and provocative design challenge; including beautiful scenery, proximity to the River Dee, flood risks and natural surface water.

There are many walking routes already visible throughout the meadows as this is a popular area for nature trails and dog walking. The area contains historic wells and there is ample opportunity for extraction of the natural surface water for drinking.

The River Dee is a fundamental and interesting feature of the area, with water sports and other activities happening around the site. We encourage designers to include this within their design and consider the continual floor risk of the meadows.

The city of Chester is one of the most architecturally-rich in the UK. Some examples of its breath-taking architecture can be seen at the roman ruins and wall, Chester Cathedral, Chester Town Hall and the historic houses along Dee Banks road. 

Public Favourite


AERBORETUM by team Fearon van Rijsbergen


by team Fearon van Rijsbergen


It is remarkable that the Chester Meadows are as we find them today. All spaces decline with imbalance, an imbalance that is usually created by humans.
We tend to consume and destroy our surroundings. The Meadows are now in a precarious dynamic balance thanks to forceful action by a small group, an association formed by a few residents in the 1980s - Friends of the Meadows. However, now it is time to build on past gains and create more permanent ways of holding that balance.

Design Strategy

The brief was clear, a shared space for birds and humans. However, those two user types don't always mix, especially if you're a bird, hyper-alert to danger when foraging for food on the ground.
Therefore, the aim was to create a space, shared, but at a distance, where humans could observe and take time out from the city, and birds would be at ease getting what they need.
The elevated water baths are set at a distance from the main structure, allowing for the observers on the first level to look down from their contemplative spots and see the birds in action.  The water baths could be filled manually, or rainwater from a downpipe running off the lower roof.
The same strategy is employed for the bird feeders, which are strung at angles from the lower roof.  The argument is that the birds will become familiar with the structure and associate it with food, water, and shelter.
There are various vantage points for the human user who may be taking shelter from rainy weather in the inner part of the tower or standing from the first floor viewing the surroundings. They could also be on the ground level catching glimpses of birds scavenging in the grass.
The form of the tower has been exaggerated to allow nature to reclaim it, encouraging vegetation to grow around the posts and other areas. The eaves are deep with ledges on the underside so that birds can find
suitable places to nest.

Structure and Materials

Post and beam construction is a fitting option when considering the history of Chester, evident in the existing buildings built throughout the 1600s and in subsequent imitations. Structurally, it is load bearing and additional interventions will not be required. This is in keeping with the 100% sustainable approach required by the brief.
Reclaimed wood will be used for the beams and sheathing. Oak could also be a sustainable choice. Natural slate tiles are to cover the roof and the base is optional but might be useful during floods.

To Summarise

The brief for this challenge asked how humans can occupy spaces that inspire harmony with the natural environment. The work of the Friends of the Meadows restored the precarious balance between natural and human occupation of the space. This design makes manifest an enduring structure that embodies that
balance, one designed to support the growth of the natural environment around it – and perhaps eventually to disappear into it.

Lauren Fearon, Nicola van Rijsbergen


The Nest

Chin Min Zhe

Chester meadow is full of lush greeneries that provide a peaceful place for the people and birds to dwell in. Hence, the approach we have decided on right at the start of the project is an intervention that coexists, or even enhances the existence of the natural environment on site.
The site is frequented by joggers and people who were taking a breather from the hectic lifestyle. Adjacent to the site is River Dee, which provides scenic views as well as water activities such as kayaking. Thus, the site has a unique identity that should be respected.
Design process
Upon conducting site studies, we produced 3 design studies:
1. A conventional bird watching tower that maximises its function as an observatory, but
was deemed intrusive.
2. A structure that coexists with nature. However, tall structures interfere with the spirit of
the site.
3. A design with minimal impact on nature, which appears like an extension of nature
instead of a forceful intervention.
Form inspiration: branching out
The form takes inspiration from our intention that it should be grown from the site instead of an insertion. Hence, this form is a metaphor of horizontally grown roots from the existing tree; they intertwine to form an entrance to serve as an invitation statement to bridge the human and natural environment.

Spatial experience and Chester architecture
Chester architecture features ‘the row’, which is an intermediate space that connects people on the street to the retail shops. We re-interpreted this spatial experience and crafted the space of ‘The Nest’. ‘The Nest’ consists of 3 layers of spatial zones: the exterior, intermediate and interior. The journey through those spaces is curated to be a gradual transition from the outside world into the realm of natural wonder. At the innermost space, we have allocated pockets of spaces made with split bamboo where the birds dwell in due to the resemblance to the tree branches. One could have a glance of the intimate living of the bird through the peep holes designed.
Construction technique
The only material used is bamboo, fixed in place by ropes. A 40-50mm-diameter bamboo culm is split into 5-6 pieces to be used to form an organic and porous enclosure. The structural base consists of rows of full-culm bamboo bundled together as a raft component. When flood comes, the property of bamboo provides buoyancy to the structure to adjust its position according to the water level. In addition, the roof is made up of flatten bamboo panels interlocked to provide shelter over the seating space.
Sustainable cycle: ‘Architecture as a living organism’
The design has a sustainable life cycle, such that it could be buried underground for decomposition upon disposal. It produces minerals, nitrogen and carbon dioxide gases into the atmosphere to be captured by organisms and plants subsequently.
In short, this piece of architecture is designed to be a living organism. The structure is grown from the earth; it returns back to the earth upon disposal, and contributes to the subsequent life cycle.

The Nest

Congratulations! THE NEST has been voted the public favourite. Your design and attention to the brief has stood out for their consideration of the characteristics and needs of the Chester Meadows, and for providing fantastic solutions both for bird-watching and a bird sanctuary within this special area.


Honourale Mentions


A huge congratulations to everyone that participated. We are so proud of all the work submitted and the amount of thought given to each of the schemes.

We would like to congratulate each and every one of you for embracing and celebrating the site's biodiversity and natural characteristics.