Eight-hundred years ago, a catastrophic volcanic eruption in the westernmost Ecuadorian Andes formed the Quilotoa Crater Lake: a two-mile-wide caldera filled with water of a brilliant turquoise, thanks to volcanic minerals that brighten the color.
Now, there’s a small town at the summit of the volcano, which is becoming a popular tourist attraction. To offer visitors stellar views of the Shangri-la that lies beneath, architects Javier Mera, Jorge Andrade and Daniel Moreno have designed the Quilotoa Crater Overlook. It sits 13,000 feet above sea level, and a platform extends from the top edge of the crater over the cliff, giving visitors a sensation of floating high above the lake. A mere piece of wood is all that prevents them from plummeting into a volcanic crater.
Underneath the platform is another viewpoint for the risk-averse: visitors can sit on bleachers that follow the natural curve of the hillside and look out over the water (trying not to think about the fire and brimstone of the 1280 Plinian eruption, as the volcano’s most recent activity is called).
The overlook’s design doesn’t call too much attention to itself: its waist-high glass walls and gold-toned teak wood blend into the surrounding landscape. An internal steel truss system keeps it sturdy. The architects were careful to make the structure camouflage with nature rather than stand out as something manmade.