Summer interns design for observing the Amazon [part two]

Low-impact Carambola allows multiple rainforest views

VOA summer interns are participating in an arquideas international design competition. Read about the competition and Team One’s project “FauxForest” here. Today, we’re looking at Team Two’s design entry, “Carambola.”


With an approaching deadline, just two weeks away, the process of developing our entry was accelerated from the start. We spent the first few days composing a body of general research on the Amazon from which we gained enough information to make an informed project concept. The rainforest is far too complex and hosts too wide a variety of ecosystems for a single observation building to reveal. Together, Giovanni Zampieron, Jose Barajas and I sketched a series of ideas, continually inspired by our leafy surroundings in the sunken gardens adjacent to the Art Institute, where we met. After a week of designing we presented to VOA’s Clint Moewe, Michael Loganbill and Lutz Barndt who provided valuable counseling to clarify our concept. The day before the final deadline, we presented our work to a larger group of VOA designers with whom we discussed general improvements to the project as well as quick amends to improve the presentation. Overall, it was an exciting and rigorous two weeks. We’re exceedingly grateful to VOA for coaching us through such a meaningful architectural endeavor.


The Carambola project involves a modular system of observatories that connects Amazon enthusiasts to the diverse natural biome through a variety of perspectives. With respect to the diversity of the rainforest’s multiple ecosystems, Carambola allows occupants to focus their observation on each eco-strata through horizontal fenestration. Given the environmental differences at every level of the forest, the modules are broken down into four adaptive typologies. As important as it is to inform visitors of this marvelous natural world, it is equally imperative that the architecture not destroy or impair its surroundings. Modules are designed for off-site prefabrication and feature light connections to the organic surroundings. Native woods are employed to keep energy expenditure to a minimum. Photovoltaic power at the emergent level modules supplies power for the lower levels.



While neither VOA project won an award, both VOA intern projects were “preselected” by the jury to advance past the first rounds of judging—see results.

See and download the Carambola competition entry at arquideas.

Public voting on the projects runs from August 10th-September 9th, so make sure to have your say at


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