The Al Wathba Wetland Reserve located 40 kilometers southeast of Abu Dhabi. Established in 1998, it is comprised of five square kilometers of wetlands, salt flats, and fossilized sands and dunes. The reserve is known for an array of plant and animal species, such as the black-winged stilt and the indigenous spiny-tailed lizard. The Al Wathba Wetland Reserve's most notable visitors are the flamingo flocks that migrate here each winter by the thousands. Flamingos stay close to salty bodies of shallow water, build their nests at the water's edges, and search for food within the water.
The Abu Dhabi Flamingo Observation Tower competition tasked participants with proposing designs for a flamingo observation platform and connecting boardwalk. Intended as a new architectural landmark for the wetlands, the platform will supplement the reserve's existing visitor experience center, network of trails, and a bird hide. The competition brief asked that the bird observation platform be limited to a floor area of 400 m² and height of 12m, that it be durable, easy to maintain, and handicapped-accessible. Modular assembly and total construction costs estimated at a limit of US $200,000 were advised.
The jury reviewed competition entries based on environmental-responsibility, energy-efficient construction methods that considered minimal excavation and limited road access given the site's remote location within the Al Wathba Wetland Reserve.
The initial concept is derived from the forces of change and continuity in the endless journey of birds migrating annually from and to the reserve. Taking the human needs and movement requirements into consideration.
The overall form symbolizes this endless movement through the Infinity Sign. The Greater Flamingo is one of the most important bird species regionally and in the reserve itself.
Flamingo feathers color differs according to the pigments included in the food they eat. The railing design abstracted this natural concept through spaces between railing battens allowing visitors to be partially visible while moving over the observatory walk.