Monte Specie | Lookout

A small thing, it might seem, a new observation point in the Dolomites. Not to the UNESCO Dolomites Foundation, set up to devise and coordinate the overall governance and management of the Dolomites UNESCO World Heritage site. When it decided on around 20 new information and lookout points at outstanding panoramic locations, the Foundation called in both brother-and-sister architecture firm Messner Architects (David and Verena) and Messner Sr, better known as Franz Messner, sculptor of metals, to fulfil some stringent criteria. Their idea, in keeping with the Foundation’s mission for conservation, communication and enhancement in and of the natural environment, was to make a contemporary architectural modification of the landscape, a small-scale and low-impact addition, well-embedded in its surroundings.

The first one was opened last summer on Monte Specie, 2300m asl, in the heart of the Fanes-Sennes-Braies nature reserve, within the South Tyrolean municipality of Dobbiaco. It’s a viewing platform based in slightly raised ground and floating above it in the lookout direction: a steel casing filled with earth and rubble from the site, rectangular on the outside but with a path leading down to a circular inner ‘chamber’, waist-high. And that’s it. Just enough. Information on all the peaks visible is given in a stainless steel profile around the edge of the inner circle, while there’s more about the Dolomitic landscape and geology in general on the outer edge of the platform.

Come closer and look carefully at this sight, without a shadow of a doubt one of the most beautiful, powerful and extraordinary things on this planet.

Dino Buzzati on the Dolomites