Saturday, June 23, 2012

put a bird on it

black and white photo by David Reamer

Portland is still overflowing with birds.  In today’s paper the 2012 restaurant of the year is Little Bird.  Their big brother restaurant is called ‘Le Pigeon’ and seen above and below is another Portland favorite, Cocotte.  If you haven’t seen any of the Portlandia clips - this is a funny one to watch on youtube, called "put a bird on it".  You can now see birds on a vast variety of objects - designers seem to be a bit obsessed with birds at the moment.

This made me wonder if any architects were 'putting birds on it'...and was this a spinoff from the Green movement?  In architecture - designs continue to strive towards a sustainable approach to building that will protect the environment.  This has created a renewed appreciation for nature. 

In Ted Bowen's article, Form Follows Feathers: Bird-Friendly Architecture, he writes about bird driven architectural designs... “Santiago Calatrava’s 2,000-foot-tall Chicago Spire is a lofty experiment in bird-safe design. The residential skyscraper is rising in the midst of a large year-round bird population and in the path of a major migratory flyway on the shores of Lake Michigan, but its glass is designed to be visible to birds, which should help prevent fatal collisions.” While I love most of Calatrava’s work - this building does nothing for me and I am not surprised that it has not been completed.  There is nothing natural looking about this structure.  A giant drill bit piercing the sky, I would stay clear of it too if I was a bird.
Perhaps a more successful design is another Chicago building on the right by Studio Gang Architects (one of the few firms that is led and owned by a woman, Jeanne Gang). Unfortunately, it has also not been completed because of city budget problems.  It included several bird-friendly elements in its design of the Ford Calumet Environmental Center, a 28,000-square-foot environmental education center.  To reduce the possibility of bird strikes on the building’s south elevation, a porch was enclosed with a basket-like mesh with four-inch openings.

Architectural critic, Blair Kamin, showered this design with greatness....he said this would become one of Chicago’s most important structures of the 21st century if built.  Studio Gang’s award-winning design was interesting. The design approach dubbed “Best Nest”, mimics the way that birds use local materials to construct their nests.

In the end -- my favorite building is the simplest one. It is the one that houses Cocotte above.  Only two stories, it is affordable with a human does not occupy the skys -- so it does not present a problem for the birds in flight...and as a result it was built!  This is another reason why I love Portland.

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