Mur Nature Observation Tower
Overlooking the Mur River along the southern edge of Austria and the fringe of the former Iron Curtain, a different kind of tower now invites day hikers and bikers to ascend 168 steps and enjoy the view. With this daring landmark, commissioned by the local municipality of Gosdorf, a double staircase is spiralling up to the breezy treetops. With this movement, a “bodily and sensual experience is unfolding of being part of the landscape, a 360-degree environment”.
At first glance, the Mur Nature Observation Tower – 89 feet tall and 28 feet wide – may resemble an amorphous structure of beams and cables. But the irregularity is an illusion. Repeating components and nodal geometries form three primary elements: an external frame of hollow-steel structural members; an internal web of steel cables; and two helical stairways – cantilevered from the outer frame – that meet at the top. Each of the 24 stair segments, except for the top and bottom pair, is identical in length and angle of incline. Interchangeable save for the varying sizes of the steel members, all 21 “knots”, or structural joints, share the same configuration, which helped control manufacturing costs.
The easiest way to understand the arrangement of the steel members is to “unroll” the tower and map it in two dimensions, as the architects did with dozens of cardboard and digital models. Folded into three-dimensional space – the Mur Tower combines beams in pure compression with cables in pure tension. Alternating push with pull, it draws on the “tensegrity structures” developed by R. Buckminster Fuller and the artist Kenneth Snelson during the mid-20th century.