In the middle of Tuhu bog – one of the biggest in the west of Estonia, a mire that is only 10 kilometres from the sea – a new piece of hiking infrastructure awaits nature lovers and birdwatchers. As part of their curriculum, second year students of the Estonian Academy of Arts interior architecture department designed an observation tower for the many birdwatchers who visit the bog from early spring to late fall. The tower is called TREPP (‘staircase’ in English) and complements the 2 kilometre long boardwalk through the boglands. Finalised late last fall, the observation tower is currently hibernating under layers of snow – but will be ready once the busy birdwatching season of 2018 starts in early spring.

Estonian Academy of Arts interior architecture students have been designing hiking/forest infrastructure – shelters and observation towers for the nature trails in Estonia for the last few years. All pics here: Tõnu Tunnel.

Each of the projects is designed after quite a long process of getting to know the area and the context for which the new project will be intended.

Tuhu bog is a much-loved spot by bird-watchers from all over, so a proper view of the area was a design goal set by Estonian Forest Management Centre who commissioned the project and looks after the tower today.

Students who designed – and built! – the tower, say that the stairway is an invitation to explore the feeling of passage, a trip, a voyage – movement upwards – where the person moving does not quite know where they will end up.

As you walk upwards, you are almost cut off from the surroundings, with only outlines of the nature around you visible through the semi-transparent walls of the observation tower.

And once you get all the way up: there’s the view of the Tuhu bog. Once the snow’s gone, with a lot more birds.

Tuhu TREPP is open all through winter, but its high season is spring time. Which really is around the corner, honestly.

For students, getting to build this structure was the end of a very long process that started more than a year before TREPP was opened for public in early December.

The educational goal is to immerse the students in local context driven spatial design, looking into the needs of hikers, local construction traditions, the environment at the bog: its birds, plants, bugs, animals – and people. What kind of space do hikers need? What can be built in a bog? What *should* be built in a bog to not disrupt too much?

TREPP tower proposes that public hiking infrastructure – public use observation towers, shelters, forest trails – can and should also be inspiring examples of contemporary design. TREPP is one of a number of projects designed and built by students from the same school in Estonia

People are sometimes surprised that the students working on this come from an *interior architecture* department. What all of the projects, TREPP included, pay attention to, is creating inspiring, functional human-scale space

The planned life-cycle for the TREPP is 10 years. But do try to make it to Tuhu bog sooner than that and let the students know what you think.

Flying over and through TREPP observation tower, spring 2018.