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UNStudio Plans A Gravity-Defying Watchtower Using High-Tech Concrete

When daring architecture and solid engineering come together in a viewing platform, the product can be breathtaking. Witness this stunning example in Aurland, Norway, by the architects Todd Saunders and Tommie Wilhemsen, which extends into the air like a crooked elbow, or this criss-crossing, gravity-defying structure over the Bavarian Alps. Recently, UNStudio unveiled its own dramatic take on the observation deck: a graceful tower of cantilevered platforms offering multiple viewing points of the surrounding De Onlanden nature reserve in Gronginen, the Netherlands.

The project is the result of an in-house investigation into ultra-high-performance concrete, which is considerably denser than ordinary concrete, has a fine-grain structure, and contains steel fibers. The composition allows narrow structures like this one to handle large compressive stresses. The concrete-and-steel tower is expected to be 820 feet tall, 134 steps leading up to its highest point, although visitors will zigzag up the stairs to two intermediary platforms at 32 and 66 feet.

“The Netherlands enjoys a rich and textured natural landscape, but unfortunately the Dutch topography is not very varied; we don’t have mountain ranges, or many hilly areas from which to enjoy a panoramic overview of our natural surroundings,” UNStudio’s frontman Ben van Berkel says in the studio’s press release. “The viewing tower for De Onlanden was designed to provide the opportunity to create a new awareness and different perspectives of the landscape we move through but may otherwise never experience in all its scope.”

A completion date is not yet set, as De Onlanden is currently raising funds to realize the tower. But be on the lookout for this high-performance concrete; we’re willing to wager a bet that it pops up again in the very near future.

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