A new visitor center for the Swiss Ornithological Institute features walls made of rammed earth, floor-to-ceiling windows, and wooden beams and cladding to create a building that complements its natural surroundings. The center, designed by Swiss architects MLZD, is located on the banks of Lake Sempach, not far from Lucerne, Switzerland. Two angular buildings are joined by a central reception area and foyer while an indoor aviary protects rescued birds that are too weak to live in the wild.
The rammed earth walls, created by compacting layers of damp earth in a mold, form the center’s load-bearing structure. The ancient building method was used for its low environmental impact and the extreme durability and excellent heat-retaining properties of the earth. The natural materials of the walls were paired with exposed wooden roof beams and wooden canopies over open areas to reflect the materials found in the lakeside setting.
One of the buildings houses a flexible exhibition center, which is used to teach visitors about the local birdlife and the non-profit Institute’s work in Switzerland. The second structure holds an auditorium on the ground floor, a learning and education space on the second floor, and simple rooms for boarding interns on the top floor. The new center replaces an older structure that was located within a protected area of the lake.
Images via MLZD