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Crystal Cove Wildlife Observatory

PLaN Architecture

Shared By

Angela Cook

Project Name

Crystal Cove Wildlife Observatory

Project Status


Year Completed



640 sq. feet

Construction Cost



  • General Contractor: DA Davis Construction
  • Civil Engineer: Olsson Associates

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Project Description


Project funding was based on a simple programmatic description – year-round wildlife observation which could include aquatics, waterfowl, woodlands and wetlands habitats. The design team worked with the Owner to define the program further in such a way that it fit within the tight $200,000 budget.

The project concept was constantly being refined, beginning with a series of pavilions spaced sparsely around the park looking at different aspects of wildlife and ultimately resulting in two closely-spaced pavilions.

One pavilion houses video observation within an opaque structure that would offer a glimpse into otherwise concealed wildlife habitats such as underwater life via remote habitat-sited cameras. This structure is wrapped in a steel exoskeleton colonnade, creating a transitional space between the inside and outside of the facility. One of the most interesting dichotomies of this pavilion is that humans must enter the concealed human-habitat in order to view concealed wildlife habitats at the park.

The second pavilion houses outdoor observation activities such as bird watching, relatively non-obtrusively, behind a wood slat screen. One of the most interesting dichotomies of this pavilion is that not only are people able to view wildlife in their natural habitat, but the facility works like a bird house attracting humans to cluster in their habitat to be viewed by the surrounding wildlife.

Sensitivity to site was critical to the design of the structures. In an effort to develop a tectonic that supports observation activities while minimizing impact on local ecologies we examined the park-vernacular that has evolved over the decades. The surrounding park structures utilized a number of park-wisdoms such as low-wall openings and pole structures to support natural air-flow, inverted roof slopes to help control run-off and slats to create concealed viewing habitats.

Implementing some of this park-wisdom along with a constant effort to reduce the physical and budgetary footprint of the pavilions resulted in a facility that is very much of-the-place.
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