Scattered among the peaks of the Stráž mountain range, overlooking the small Czech town of Rokytnice, is a series of four oak-clad steel lookouts designed by the Liberec-based firm Mjölk Architekti. Their brief was originally inspired by an EU program promoting the construction of lookouts and towers on either side of the Czech-Polish border in hope of boosting tourism as well as attracting hikers to less popular routes. When the funding fell through, the municipality of Rokytnice decided to move forward with the endeavor on its own. Rather than creating a lone tower, the firm decided to construct a sequence of smaller vantage points on various peaks, their design informed by the rocky and densely forested terrain. The resulting set of structures are named for figures represented in the Rokytnice town crest—the Fox, the Bear, the Sheep, and the Miner—collectively called the Guard Patrol.
A view of 'The Miner' from the woods (1), and 'The Bear' (2). Photos © BOYSPLAYNICE
“Each structure provides a different experience while still having something in common,” says Tobiáš Hrabec, senior architect at Mjölk. “For us, it was also a way to create architecture that’s a little playful—dignified enough to host wedding ceremonies, but whimsical enough to inspire a child’s pretend play.” Pictured here is the 46-foot-long Fox, whose “tail” points toward the valley for a dramatic view. It is accessible via a winding footbridge and stairs. Lookouts are a specialty of this small firm—founded in 2008 by partners Jan Mach and Jan Vondrák—which has designed a total of 10 so far. “It’s a discipline on its own,” says Hrabec. “You build on the backdrop of deep forests, mist, clouds, hills, or mountains. You work at the scale of an ant, but also that of an entire landscape.”