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Architecture for the Birds?

January 29, 2010

The public art installation by Chilean architects Emilio Marin and Claudio Magrini got a bit of slack the other day in the comments section of designboom, deeming that what birds really need are real trees, not pretty red bird houses perched on steel beams. Well, while some of this holds true, let’s not forget the nature of the project (sorry for the pun): it’s an artistic sculpture concevied by architects, not architecture for the birds. Now that would be silly.

I confess I have a particular weakness for all things bird, and thought this project was beautiful in its own right. There’s plenty of art works out there that don’t address nature at all or improve environmental conditions, and we don’t diss them for that. We would expect that of architecture, whose functional purpose necessarily entails that sort of responsiblity, which remains dubious in the case of certain endeavours involving our flying friends, such as Guscetti & Tournier’s aviary, BAM’s Avian Habitat, or Graft’s Bird Island proposal.

In an interview with the architects, the creators explain their intent to create an ‘ecological bridge’ for migratory birds as a refuge from the intersecting highway. It may seem naive to assume that birds will flock to bright red boxes poised on barren artificial branches, but that is yet be seen, as the architects continue to collaborate with an ornithologist to monitor the birds’ response to the installation.

Marin and Magrini’s project is an honest, small-scale intervention bred from a cross between art, landscape architecture and nature. At the least, it graces an otherwise empty stretch of highway with a sculpture symbolic of its context and easy on the eyes.

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