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Black Devon Viewing Screen

Alloa, Clackmannanshire

A semi-enclosed shelter for volunteers and visitors to Scotland’s then newest nature reserve, on the Inner Forth just south-east of Alloa.

The 38-hectare site, known as Black Devon Wetlands, is a mosaic of untouched wet grassland and wetland habitat behind the sea wall.

The Cauldron bi-plane factory occupied the site in the 1920s, followed by mine workings. The site was then used for clay extraction. This created a series of artificial freshwater and brackish pools that are becoming rich in wildlife. The reserve is an important refuge for large flocks of breeding and wintering wildfowl, special to the Firth of Forth SPA. RSPB is restoring these wetlands to make them accessible to families via a new network of paths, a boardwalk, the viewing screen and a new raised viewing area.

The brief was to deliver a viewing structure with a budget of just £24,000. The structure was required to screen people from birds on the wetlands, while providing visitors with excellent views of the reserve, and shelter from the elements. In response, the design provides a modest enclosure, open from the back, with mixed-height openings for bird-watching at the edge of the wetland pools.

The screen sits on corkscrew foundations minimising contamination in the ground. Above foundation level, the screen was entirely constructed by civic’s Andrew Siddall with RSPB staff and volunteers, to save cost.

Seared Larch cladding from Perthshire lends a ‘feathery’ pattern to the screen’s outside while 12 laser cut interpretation panels – a collaboration with artist Astrid Jaekel – depict birds seen month-by-month and ranged over Clackmannanshire’s post-industrial skyline. The screen frames extraordinarily beautiful views of the reserve, but it also punctuates this remarkable landscape, drawing people into focus with wildlife, pylons and medieval towers alike.

Client: RSPB South and West Scotland
Structural Design Consultant: SDC
Artist – interpretation panels: Astrid Jaekel
Main Contractor: civic
Structural and architectural metalwork: HadFab
Helical micropiles: Corecut
Laser cut steel interpretation panels: Pentland Precision
Seared Larch cladding: Russwood