Kurgi Farm, located in the North Vidzeme Biosphere Reserve, is sited at one of the most scenic locations in Northern Europe. Its location positions it for visitors from nearby neighbors at the University of Tartu, the town of Valka-Valga, and Ergeme village.
Known for its breeding of Latvian Ardennes, a rare horse breed near extinction, the farm is focused on saving the breed and educating visitors about their heritage. The farms’ owners looked to the design community to create an ecotourism concept that would meld the horses’ therapeutic experience with the breathtaking views of the Reserve. The tower was required to be five-stories, offer 360-views throughout the first four-stories, and have a fifth-floor guest space concealed in glass to take advantage of the views and have the ability to be occupied during any season.
The Cline Design team imagined a tower that originates from three rural forms, an entry portal and two horse stables, that shape a unique arrival experience for its guests. The three forms are wrapped in locally harvested wood, paying homage to the early Latvian wood architecture while capturing the self-reliant Latvian culture.
The three forms collide to form a hexagonal shape, rising through the tower, encouraging guests to embark on a journey to reach the sun. Along the journey, the carefully crafted view portals are carved out of the facade, reminding journey-goers of the significant views and structures that surround them. As they arrive at the pinnacle, the observation deck, the tower blooms, opening to uninterrupted panoramic views of Kurgi Farm and the North Latvian Biosphere Reserve. It provides guests a moment to reflect on their journey and embrace their natural surroundings.
The Iceland Black Lava Fields Visitor Center greets approximately 500,000 visitors each year. These visitors come from all over to get an up-close and personal look at Dimmmuborgir’s natural lava-formed towers and castles along a winding path flanked with native foliage. The visitors center required considerable upgrades, including a new facility to replace the container modules that served as the current visitors center and relocating parking to accommodate traffic.
Cline Design was challenged to imagine a new visitors’ experience that would capture incredible views, provide a safer, more efficient traffic flow, and offer a facility that could withstand dramatic weather changes.
The proposed program is comprised of three components, the visitor’s area, staff area, and parking. The visitor’s area boasts an information center in the form of a small exhibition room, a café, terrace, childrens’ playground, restrooms, and shower. The staff area provides workers with a small kitchen, office, storage, and restrooms. The new parking area allows for 100 cars, 20 buses, and 10 campers.
The team first tackled the arrival, analyzing ways to balance parking and pedestrians, while creating a connection to the fields both visually and physically. Their proposed solution provides four pedestrian trails from parking that converge into one.
The team then examined the client’s programmatic needs and their ability to enhance the experience, introducing visitors to program pieces along the trail rather than all-at-once. From the convergence after parking, the team created an entry portal that greets visitors and prepares them for their journey. The next 50 meters leads them to an exhibition space followed by Hverfjall lookout, a space for reflection and capturing sweeping views of the natural wonder. After 250 meters along their journey, the visitor meets the 2-story visitor shelter carved into the topography to embrace the landscape’s naturalness and provide unobstructed views giving a sense of oneness with the fields. The space, shrouded in glass, includes an indoor café and second-story lookout. Visitors exiting the shelter are connected to the existing trails and can choose their path through the lava fields.
The result of the Black Lava Fields reimagination calls for personal exploration, starting at the surface and descending to the base of the lava formations, weaving your way through each of the areas in-between. There is a uniqueness in every inch of the journey to be contemplated, admired, and celebrated.