Bird observatory TIJ: for nature, in nature, inspired by nature
A number of bird observatories have been designed in the Haringvliet area to open the locks, including TIJ. This award-winning piece of architecture was designed by RAU Architecten and Ro&Ad Architecten and we played an important role in the design process. What exactly does this building look like, what is so special about it and why is this an example of sustainable architecture?
Realisation of the project
The observatory is part of a large-scale plan to make it possible for people to view various bird species. TIJ is located in Scheelhoek, a nature reserve near the Haringvlietsuis in Stellendam. This consists of large reed beds and flat sand islands. The biodiversity in the area is increasing and contributes to a healthier ecosystem. The bird observatories in this area are designed to give people the opportunity to discover, experience, and explore this change.
Scheelhoek is an important breeding area for various bird species such as the spoonbill or common tern. TIJ is therefore inspired by the iconic bird from this area, namely the sandwich tern. The shape of the building symbolises an egg on a sand nest, just like the tern does. In this way it is architecture in nature, inspired by nature, and for nature.
The name ‘TIJ’ has a double meaning. On the one hand, it refers to the Dutch words for the tides as in ‘high tide’ (hoogtij) or ‘low tide’ (laagtij), as the observatory is half submerged several times a year. Fortunately, the durable materials have ensured that this is not a problem. On the other hand, it’s a play on words. Pronounce TIJ quickly; tide… t ij… t ei… the Dutch word for ‘the egg’ (‘t ei). And that is precisely the shape of this bird observatory.
Parametric design, inspired by nature
The ‘nest of the egg’ consists of vertical ‘feathers’ of wood. The egg is parametrically designed to determine the best shape and position of the openings. TIJ was designed using a file to factory system, which means that the 402 parts were transported in one truck and assembled on site. This also makes the building completely demountable, as TIJ can be taken apart and placed elsewhere if desired. This makes TIJ a unique example of circular construction and sustainable architecture.
The tunnel leading to the observatory ensures that visitors do not disturb the area. On the other hand, this tunnel offers space for additional nest boxes. The peepholes in the tunnel are determined by bird watchers.
The lower part of the egg is made of accoya wood, as this part floods a few times a year. This required a durable material. Accoya wood was chosen for its rot resistance, circularity, and durability.
The upper part of TIJ remains dry all year round and is therefore made of pine wood. This section is covered with local reeds harvested from the inside of the sea wall. The highest possible waterline forms the boundary of the reed.
Inside TIJ is a floor of Cross Laminated Timber (CLT). This building material is very strong because it consists of a number of crosswise glued slats, which are placed at right angles to each other. The CLT floor acts as a structural stabiliser and offers a beautiful view of the nature reserve.
Example of sustainable architecture
The architects designed and built TIJ with the aim of minimally burdening the ecosystem and this has been expressed in the choice of natural materials and reconstruction options. These are important points for a sustainable structure with circular potential.
All in all, TIJ is a wonderful example of how people and nature can come closer together through architecture. The sustainable materials are carefully selected and selected with respect for nature. The fact that the building can be dismantled also contributes to the sustainability of the bird observatory.
Just let us know if you have any questions about this bird observatory or if you are inspired. You can read more about TIJ on the following news and architecture websites: (some are in Dutch but others are in English)