IAAC builds FLORA observatory in barcelona’s forest to research nature from the trees

IAAC builds FLORA observatory in barcelona’s forest to research nature from the trees

flora: an observatory in barcelona’s forest


An observatory — dubbed the Forest Lab for Observational Research and Analysis (FLORA) — has been designed and built by a team at the Institute for Advanced Architecture of Catalonia (IAAC) as a unique scientific research facility suspended among the treetops of Barcelona‘s Collserola Natural Park. Developed by students and researchers of the Masters in Advanced Ecological Buildings and Biocities, FLORA is an advanced and ecological building that allows researchers to live and work in the forest canopy.


Measuring over 8.5 meters (28 feet) in height, this mass timber structure is built from invasive pine trees sourced within the Catalan park through rigorous sustainable forest management and traceability procedures. Seventy trees were cut and processed by the master students to create cross laminated timber panels, laminated beams, and solid wood elements.

IAAC FLORAimages © Adrià Goula@adriagoulaphoto



‘zero-kilometer materials’


The observatory is designed by the IAAC team to house a researcher for a short period of time who will be studying the biodiversity of the park and utilizing FLORA’s new weather station. The facility is the first building that allows for the observation of the forest canopy, inspired by the work of the American biologist Margaret D. Lowman and her hanging walkways.


From its construction to its end use, the FLORA project is part of the ‘zero-kilometer’ philosophy, as its primary building material is timber obtained from the surrounding forest. The students of MAEBB carried out further research to analyse the biodiversity of the forest and identify various inhabitants from underground, aboveground, canopy, and sky levels. This research allowed them to discern the structures and dimensions necessary to develop the construction and the type of materials they could use.




construction details


The CLT core of FLORA’s structure rests on four glulam timber columns whose cross-sections measure 30 x 30 centimeters. The bridges are made from homemade glue-laminated timber, the longest of which spans approximately twelve meters (forty feet). These components were all individually built and then assembled using a crane in a highly intricate installation sequence. The CLT structure is protected by two layers of natural cork panels, providing thermal and acoustic insulation.




The observatory is intended to be immersed within nature and to create an ecological interactive prototype. It has a bird radio, bird houses, working and projection space, as well as bird watching spaces. The project seeks to better understand the biodiversity of the park and observe how the effects of climate change are influencing it.


The conservation of the forest canopy is fundamental to guarantee the water cycle, as much of the water absorbed by the trees is recirculated to the atmosphere through transpiration, and its study is useful for climate change mitigation research. FLORA is an excellent example of how sustainable forest management can be used to construct scientific facilities while also protecting the natural environment. This observatory will serve as an important tool for understanding the biodiversity and ecological systems of the park and may provide insights into how to better preserve and manage natural spaces around the world.




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