John Metcalfe was CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, covering climate change and the science of cities.
These makeshift shelters slap onto street poles with the help of magnets.
Urban birds have a rough time of it, what with a shortage of trees in which to roost and a diet that might consist of human-food scraps and the occasional cigarette butt.
Vancouver designers Jeffrey Liu and Andrew Siu think they deserve a better life than that. So starting at the bottom of Maslow's hierarchy of needs, they've constructed a line of cheap shelters for birds augmented with powerful magnets. By using said magnets to attach a bunch of them onto light poles, street signs, abandoned cars and the like, anybody can transform a lifeless city block into a refugee camp where birds can safely raise gaggles of shrieking chicks. (At least until some jerk pulls the houses off and takes them into his home.)
The birdhouses are lightweight and have a bottom-opening doorway that only the most psychotic of rats could scrabble into. To reinforce the notion that these homes comprise a community, the designers colored them to look like Brazil's favelas after the graffiti team of Haas & Hahn passed through town. Here's Siu explaining the bright paint job to Artsy-Dartsy:
Initially, we conceptualized houses that would match the variety of aesthetics of the differing neighborhoods; we wanted to showcase the idea of "urbanized wildlife." However, by camouflaging our birdhouse into its environments, we felt the message became lost. We took the project in a 180 turn and made it more vibrant to create a louder statement. That's when we came across art projects concerning the favelas of Brazil, and took the same approach of using graffiti to empower the residents.
Is it only a matter of time that Vancouver's birds begin tweeting in funk carioca, then?
If you live near Vancouver, the feathery favelas are on exhibit at Maai Living in "Perched: A Birdhouse Exhibit," along with ceramic bat houses, these incredible lacy boxes for tiny birds and this pair of birdhouses inspired by telephone-wire sneakers.