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Sage Radar Tower, the epicenter of the decommissioned Camp Hero Base in Montauk, New York, was built in 1942. This military base was designed to be camouflaged as a fishing village aerially. After it was closed in 1981, the government explored selling the land, but protests from environmental groups prevented that from happening. The area was ultimately dedicated as a state park. Many organizations, like the Surfrider Foundation, still have concerns regarding any development in or around Camp Hero as it is home to a complex ecosystem including rare flora, fauna and several endangered species. In 2002, Camp Hero State Park opened to the public, however, the abandoned military buildings like Sage Tower, remained off limits.
Most visitors come to enjoy the beautiful beaches, hike, bike, cross-country ski and/or fish; however, some guests come in hopes of confirming conspiracy theories. These theories range from experiments in mind control to time travel to child abduction to hallucinogenic drug trials. Preston Nichols’ book The Montauk Project: Experiments in Time, and the documentary The Montauk Chronicles, among others, explore these conspiracies. The popular show Stranger Things is in fact based on Camp Hero and what may have happened there. As a result, Sage Tower is a destination for conspiracy theorists and urban explorationists (exploring abandoned structures in ruin #ruinporn, #urbex) alike.
In this design, Sage Tower will be rehabilitated into an ecology center that will also serve as a marine and wildlife sanctuary. The study of ecology focuses on the root of environmental issues to restore ecosystems to their natural state. This center will be a home base for scientists to study the effects of habitat change while enacting measures to preserve biodiversity. Sage Tower’s unique location, since it was used as a radar facility, provides a vantage viewpoint to monitor wildlife from afar without disturbing the surrounding environment. The center will be equipped with a cutting-edge laboratory including a rooftop garden to research the native environment while limiting disruption.
Honoring the existing lines and form of the structure while drawing inspiration from Le Corbusier’s Notre-Dame du Haut, the reimaged building celebrates Sage Tower and its sordid history. The windows mimic the shape of the original exterior checkerboard while creating dramatic lighting that gives the center a serene yet eerie vibe. The concrete used for the exterior walls will be mixed with local soil that is unearthed during construction to camouflage the building with its surroundings. Reindeer moss, which is native to the area, will cover the outer-walls to keep the building cool and blend it further into the lush backdrop. Adding to the mystique will be the lack of signage, keeping the mystery alive and possibly allowing some new conspiracy theories to be formed. This rehabilitated environmental hub will raise awareness of issues while furthering its mission to preserve biodiversity and ecosystem health. Its creation will also bring additional year-round jobs for residents that are not dependent on tourism, which continues to overcrowd and overwhelm the very end of Long Island.
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