Expansive windows to view trees and sky draw occupants closer to the nature they love outside.
But windows can draw birds to fly into the reflection of those landscapes in the glass.
|Page from Ascent, 2009|
How much effort should go into birdsafe design? How valuable is a bird? Birds are small, soft, and fleeting. Buildings are massive, solid, and designed to last decades. The concerns of buildings tend to win. But I loved birds before I loved buildings and it pains me to be practical on this topic. There are practical ways to prevent collisions - that's what the guidelines are about, but sometimes costs or design preferences are in tension with the impact on bird life.
Bird LifeBirds are a muse for me. Many of my artist's books and associated poems reference birds and their bodies: bird beaks, bird feet, feathers, bird bellies. My first public artwork, Children's Nest Egg, was a giant nest and referenced birds in its engraved text. Perhaps this bird attraction started in junior high school art class where the best images we had to draw or paint from were Audubon magazines. I studied the beaks, the eyes, and the curved bird feet gripping a twig. The photos were closer than I could get to real birds and this personalized them for me - faces and postures I could relate to. I was a nature-loving girl.
But the most potent study of a bird and its body I've experienced happened later as part of a bird-building encounter. I was in architecture school, in the library among the dark green hardbound archives of black and white architecture magazines with smooth pages illustrating hard edged modernist buildings. There, along the shelves I saw a small yellow bird. It had probably come in one of the tall slit windows that opened in those days and didn't have screens. I knew I had to get the bird out. I moved toward it and it hopped further down the aisle. Again I moved closer and it hopped further. Then I moved more slowly and it stood still while I reached out to wrap my hand around its belly. It felt warm and its heart was beating rapidly. I never knew a bird's body held so much life inside. I carried it toward a window, stepping evenly like I was balancing tea cups. Then I extended my arm outside and opened my hand. The bird flew away.
Recollections of my encounters with birds are adapted from a collection of bird-writings in process.