The Kemeri National Park, the third-largest national park in Latvia covering over 380 km², is mostly occupied by forest with nearly a quarter of the park made up of bogs. The park is home to countless species of birds and wildlife, and a popular attraction providing visitors a chance to explore seemingly untouched nature up close. The Latvia Nature Conservation Agency, in an international design competition, asked architects to create a new visitor center to be located at the entrance point to the Great Kemeri Bog Boardwalk within the Kemeri National Park. The design produced by the architect creates an open and ephemeral structure in which the ensemble of the architecture and its surrounding evoke a sense of engagement with nature. The visitor center is a floating structure that melts into the surroundings. With the underside of the canopy faced with polished metal sheet, the visitor center is literally the reflection of its surrounding and part of the landscape with its appearance changing according to time and weather, merging into the vivid greenery of the forest and the sky surrounding the site, blurring the boundaries between interior and exterior. An open structure with no exterior wall and no entrance, the visitor center is accessible from all sides. It is a structure that functions as a field of activities, encouraging visitors to spend time at the site in diverse ways. The design was primarily conceived in section. The seemingly weightless canopy emerges from the woods stretching over the open visitor’s area creating the sheltered spaces below. The canopy also functions as the camping deck with openings, framing views towards the sky above and the forest ground below while allowing trees to penetrate. The slender rectangular canopy supports placed seemingly in random blend into the landscape and offers uninterrupted views across the forest. Comprised of 48 stratifying floor plates with corresponding partitions, some in furniture-like scale and others in room-like scale, scattered in clusters underneath the two large canopies create an architectural terrain, encouraging visitors to create their own experiences. A collection of individual spaces with varying degree of openness and spatial density, some are connected to one another while others are isolated and more private. The loosely grouped individual plates and partitions create a setting for a range of activities that can take places in relation to its surrounding, inviting each person to find a favorite space to spend time between architecture and nature.
A+U LAB is a design collective and collaborative practice for architecture and urbanism. Established and led by Lawrence Kim, an architect and professor at Pusan National University, A+U LAB engages in diverse projects through design consultancy and research working regionally and internationally.