Fig: 1 – Forest ecosystem (Credits- Annie Pratt)
Origins of forests can be traced back to the planet’s earliest photosynthesizing organisms -Cyanobacteria. They enabled lichens and ferns to advance from sea to land with a gradual increase in oxygen. Among these plants, one grew 20-meter high known as Archaeopteris, the first tree.
Subsequently, the first forests along with the forest floor evolved with the protective expanse of the biosphere. With shifting geography due to ice ages, various forest ecologies began to spread as per regional and climatic factors. Today, these forests cover 31 per cent of the global land area.
Since ancient times forests have been symbols of growth, prosperity, and healing. In Japanese tradition- Shinto, they are held in reverence and meant to be the dwelling of the divine spirits musubi (spirit of growth). Many similar cultures were physically and spiritually build upon forest ecosystems.
Fig: 2 – Deforestation due to human activities (Credits -Dave Herring)
There has always been a tangible and intangible connection between natural ecosystems, culture, science, and livelihood. Nature and forests profoundly influence human consciousness and society. Apart from the biodiversity of a forest, we depend on them for our basic survival; the air we breathe and the food we eat all emerge from the forest floor.
Forests mitigate climatic cycles, prevent soil erosion and provide watershed protection. They are home to 80% of the world’s terrestrial biodiversity and multiple indigenous tribes. However, forests are becoming casualties to human activities as mundane as gender reveal parties and illegal construction.
The repercussions of these small activities as well as huge deforestation projects has led to a decrease in primary forests by 80 million hectares since 1990. How can we restore this lost cover?
Fig: 3 – To create a balance between us and nature (Credits - Caleb Jones)
Forest ecology falling prey to human problems is indirectly related to how we have caged ourselves to urban life. Moreover, our ignorance gives unquestionable passages to such activities.
While nature and vegetation may seem far away or are defined only as a small pot of plant on our desks. It still takes just one action of looking up to find an evening lit sky or down to discover a ground covered with jasmine that reminds us of our connection with nature.
In our fast-paced lives, how do we renew this natural connection with forests and nature?
Brief: To design a forest visitor’s centre, which balances with nature and provides spaces of interaction with the local biodiversity.
The goal is to be sensitive towards the regional context while designing stable structures. The design seeks avenues for interactive and educational exhibits. Most importantly, the project should reflect what it preaches.
Spaces: Design spaces of information, recreation, and conservation. These spaces can be pavilions, decks, or walkways.
Planning: Macro planning with the interconnection of activities.
Construction: Use materials and building operations that are in tune with the local context.
The centre’s main objective is to move close to nature and not far away by strict boundaries, to develop a balance by merging innovation, creativity, and natural topography.
The Wollemi National Park is located in the northern Blue Mountains and Lower Hunter regions of New South Wales, Australia. It is one of the eight protected areas within the World Heritage Site. The site is located at the start of the mountain range, making it apt to visit and create a balance between nature and humans.
Site Area: 4698 sqm
Height Limitations: 8 meters
Maximum Built Up Area = 4698 sq.m
Ground Coverage: 40%
Coordinates: 33°05'59.0"S 150°13'53.3"E
The following programmatic outline is the point to begin your design at. You can add more functions and activities in relevance or modify the below design programme.
Staff Offices, Security
Viewing decks, Nature trails/walkaways, Landscape
Learning and awareness (30%)
Information exhibits, Workshop areas, Community spaces, Reading/Meditation.
Cafeteria, Toilets/washrooms, Kitchen/pantry