Wild Thing is a wilderness observatory in the Pirtsupites Grava Valley in a small town in Latvia called Cesis. The observatory was built to generate a discussion about the future of the valley and highlight the significance of the area due to the risk of developers creating a generic golf course over the land. The installation was designed and built by an international group of 13 students led by the Building Works Unit and RTU Summer School.
The team was approached by the town mayor who was struggling to realise the potential of the area and was frustrated by high maintenance costs, such as removing sprouting trees, stripping back bushes and cutting grass to manage the semi-wild landscape. However, the result of the ongoing maintenance left the space feeling undefined, not a wilderness and not an open parkland. This sense of being in limbo created something of a rural non-place.
The Pirtsupites Grava Valley is enclosed by Cesis and creates a narrow green link between the historic town centre and the surrounding natural park which envelopes the town. This realisation led the team to suggest an act of re-wilding as an alternative to the mayors ongoing initiative to manage area. The response of the team was not an issue of management, but that the valley was in fact not wild enough! Through ending formal maintenance along at the valleys centre the area could be flooded with new biodiversity, new plants and wild flowers, creating a stronger connection between the town and national park.
Wild Thing sits at the end of the valley where unkempt nature is already beginning to creep in, providing a point of observation for local residents to witness the re-wilding of the area. It was almost an accident of the design process that Wild Thing began to take on this creature like appearance, walking out of from behind the trees.
A small ladder takes visitors up to a small cabin 4.5 metres above the ground, with two benches available for six people to sit in the enclosed space. Each of the four walls are balanced on counterweights, allowing visitors to transform the intimate cabin into an open viewing platform overlooking the valley. A skylight opens up to the sky and a slot beneath the benches allows views to valley floor to spot wildlife.
Wild Thing is clad in black rubber shingles that were reclaimed from a nearby railway. The square rubber flaps were originally used as padding between the metal railway tracks and timber sleepers. The old flaps make a perfect cladding material which is both water and weather resistant. Old railway sleepers were used to to form the base of the cabin and as counterweights for the side panels. The structure of Wild Thing is built from local pine and uses opposing A and V frame legs to support the cabin.
Tutors: Niklavs Paegle (LV), Thomas Randall–Page (UK), Theodore Molloy (UK)
Assistants: Lucas Facer (UK), Chloe Leen (UK)
Participants: Mariana Meneguetti (BR), Amanda Sperger (AT), Joséphine Devaud Koenig (CH), Wojtek Pisarczyk (PL), Jennifer Whittaker (UK), Ozan Toksoz–Blauel (UK), Aislu Mursalimova (RU), Arta Buceniece (LV), Anja Milojevic (RS), Kairit Sõlg (EE), Živan Miletic (RS), Aivars Žogla (LV)
Photos by: Kaspars Kursišs, Building Works Unit