Nature Interpretation Center
Ventes Ragas, LT (competition in collaboration with Monika Sriubaite)
This is about vision. This is about the long line. Like the bird who flies over the field and doesn’t care about the fences underneath. Benjamin Zander, British Conductor
Year after year migrating birds gather in large flocks to go on a journey which brings them often thousands of kilometers away from the regions where they hatched and probably also raised their young. The lack of food and the cold winter temperatures forces some bird species to migrate. In Europe birds fly southwards to Africa. The regions beyond the Sahara desert offer birds abundance of food and warm climate. There they prosper under the heating sub-equatorial sun until winter time approaches. Then they’ll gather again and head north to breed and feed in the mild summer months. Year after year. In the west of Lithuania, where the river Nemunas flows into a freshwater lagoon, the Curonian Spit, the national park Nemunas deltas spreads out over 239,5 square kilometers. At the river mouth, a small lighthouse on a land tongue reaching out into the lagoon, marks the western tip of this natural sanctuary: Ventės Ragas. The area is scarcely populated. It mainly consists of extended wetlands, lush meadows, alluvial forests and the small branches of the Nemunas. A wide variety of birds, including some endangered species like the white-tailed eagle, nest in the tree tops or in the reed fields. In autumn migrating birds, like the white stork, the crane and many more start their journey to the south in the park itself. Ornithologists therefore started ringing birds in 1929. Large net tunnels help scientists and volunteers alike to capture some birds in order to ring them or to identify already tagged ones to eventually release them again. Ventės Ragas is one of several bird ringing stations across Europe. It is part of a large international bird observation network. Therefore, only if there is peace between nations, we can protect the birds.
Ventės Ragas Nature Interpretation Centre
Taking the migratory cycle of birds as the main source of inspiration, the design translates this act into built space. Moving through the air along defined trajectories is projected onto a two-dimensional plane. This results in an architectural routing taking the visitor from a gathering point -the entrance building with its tree in the central courtyard- through the exterior natural environment and the interior of the exhibition building to the quiet reed field in that same building. Visitor flows meet on the paths outside and in the entrance building, but not in the exhibition area. In order to not disturb the bird flocks, which collect on this site to start their voyage south, the buildings have to be low. They are accessible for people with a disability and for the elderly and therefore devoid of an insurmountable height differences. Furthermore, the surrounding landscape is flat, except for its one landmark, the lighthouse from 1863. Changing altitude when flying and switching to more advantageous air streams, landing for rest and rising up again is felt under the wavy ceilings. Migrating birds orientate themselves by landmarks on the ground and the stars above them. This is reflected in the defined views to the outside and the lights on the ceilings. Birds pass narrow land passages, like Gibraltar in order to avoid large water masses. After that they disperse again. The visitors thus also need to cross narrow and wide spaces. Because birds, while flying, still keep a sensorial contact to the earth below them, the color scheme is reduced to a dark brown on floors and white on walls and ceilings. Moreover, large glazed openings open up to the surrounding landscape. In the patios and the outside reed field between the two buildings the visitor eventually meets the bare sky.