John Metcalfe is CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, based in Oakland. His coverage focuses on climate change and the science of cities.
Thomas Savage would like to dot the English coast with beach inns filled with migrating birds.
While it may not be as exciting as swimming with the dolphins, sleeping with the birds is a perfectly acceptable way to commune with nature. And it may be possible to do so in future England, should a risk-loving capitalist ever bankroll Thomas Savage's mad hostels-that-transform-into-birdhouses concept.
Don't worry, humans: You would not need to regurgitate food into the mouths of chicks as part of the deal. People and birds would not simultaneously live in these queer structures, which Savage would like to see go up in the northeastern port town of Blyth. Sunscreen-slathered land mammals would take over in the summer, when the weather's nice and recreations like camping and sailing are popular. When the months start to turn cold, humans would leave to make room for flocks of migrating birds, which in this sector of the world means loons, sea ducks, golden plovers and flapping fieldfares (actual scientific name: Turdus Pilaris).
Given that the birds would come to think of the inns as their own personal vacation homes, there's bound to be some overlap in occupancy. Let's hope that Savage has planned for all surfaces to be easy to clean, as a vacation could easily be ruined by a horde of gulls carpet-bombing the premises. On the upside, people wouldn't need to pack alarm clocks due to the happy tweet-cheep-SQUAWK of birds greeting the day.
Savage recently designed these nests-on-stilts as part of an architecture course at Northumbria University; he hasn't contacted the town planners in Blyth to gauge their interest in the project, though he says in an e-mail it "might be a nightmare in planning!" One thing going for the proposed development, aside from its allure to adventure vacationers, is the multiplicity of eco-friendly features that Savage has built in. There are composting toilets and systems for collecting rainwater, making biofuel chips and filtering seawater. A chimneylike stack provides natural ventilation in the summer, while in the winter it gives birds a place to roost:
Here's a rendering of how the rooms in one of the nine-story hostels fit together. No doubt the authorities will deal harshly with anyone who grills a migrating bird over a fire pit:
A hostel in the summer:
This is a hostel after the birds assume control, giving it a creepy, derelict appearance that fits right in with an English beach in winter:
Some of the species the beach lodging could shelter:
The project seen from above: