Affordable Housing in New York: An Exhibition

BloomLasner

From February 10, 2016 to May 15, 2016, the Hunter East Harlem Gallery in New York is hosting a new exhibition called Affordable Housing in New York: The People, Places, and Policies that Transformed a City, as a gallery component to the book by Matthew Gordon Lasner and Nicholas Dagen Bloom. The exhibition is free and open to the public.

Via Verde Bronx 2012, Model and plan by Matthias Altwicker, Alexander MacVicar. Christopher Alvarez, Kevin Kawiecki, photo by Eduard Hueber archphoto

Via Verde Bronx 2012, Model and plan by Matthias Altwicker, Alexander MacVicar. Christopher Alvarez, Kevin Kawiecki, photo by Eduard Hueber archphoto

The exhibition features original photographs by award-wining visual sociologist David Schalliol, interactive models of apartment interiors, and archival and other material that immerse visitors in New York City’s unique system of for low- and middle-income housing. Also on display are photographs from Project Lives, a program that provided cameras and photography classes to residents of public housing. The exhibition will be accompanied by several public programs, including walking tours and panel discussions.

Housing

This exhibition is brought to you by Hunter College Art Galleries, the Hunter College President’s Fund for Faculty Advancement, the New York Institute of Technology: School of Architecture and College of Arts and Sciences, The Journal of Planning History, and Princeton University Press.

New Art & Architecture Catalog 2016

Our Art & Architecture 2016 catalog is now available.

 

Housing Affordable Housing in New York is a comprehensive history of housing in the Big Apple from the 1970s to the present. Key figures and places are profiled by an extensive list of contributors, making this an authoritative guide.
Wright Neil Levine takes the standard perception of Frank Lloyd Wright as an architect who did not have much time for the city and turns it on its head in The Urbanism of Frank Lloyd Wright. In fact, he argues, Wright was a leading contributor to the creation of the modern city.
Ornament If you’re looking for a beautiful book and a remarkable work of scholarship in one package, look no further than Histories of Ornament, edited by Gülru Necipoğlu & Alina Payne. It covers the history of ornament in a global context.

If you would like updates on new books emailed to you, subscribe to our newsletter.

PUP will be at the College Art Association Annual Conference in Washington D.C. from February 3 to February 6. Visit us at booth #124-126.

Conversations on Climate: Victor W. Olgyay on Design and Ecology’s Interconnection

NEW climate pic

Connecting Buildings to Address Climate Change
by Victor W. Olgyay

“We are not all weak in the same spots, and so we supplement and complete one another, each one making up in himself for the lack in another.”
Thomas Merton, No Man is an Island

In Pope Francis’ recent visit to the US, he referred to several interesting touchstones in America’s spiritual history, including Thomas Merton. Merton was a prolific writer, and often emphasized the importance of community and our deep connectedness to others as a nurturing aspect of spiritual life. The importance of connectedness is not only true of spirituality, but also applies to ecology, an idea we continue to relearn. We cannot throw anything out, because our discard comes back to us in the water we drink, the food we eat, or in the air we breathe. Our society is intimately connected; we all depend on the same resources to survive.

As the world’s leaders debate political solutions to our current climate crisis, brought about largely by our neglect of this idea, we can look to some very practical solutions within our built environment to protect and enhance resilient communities. In buildings, these broader connections to community exist as well. Buildings have traditionally emerged from context, been built out of local materials, fit into the contours of the landscape, and made use of the local climate to help heat and cool the structures. Almost inevitably, these buildings show a climatic response, drawn from the genus of place, mixed with human inventiveness. Between people and place a dialogue is evoked, a call and response that started long ago, and continues to evolve today.

This conversation has a science to it as well. In the mid 20th century many architects dove deep into the rationality of design, rediscovering how buildings can be designed to optimize their relationship to people, climate and place. Bridging technology, climatology, biology and architecture, the science of bioclimatic design was given quantitative documentation in Design with Climate, the 1963 text recently republished by Princeton University Press. The interdisciplinary approach to design that book describes remains the fundamental approach to designing high performance buildings today.

Integrated building design connects across disciplines.

Integrated building design connects across disciplines.

But today’s high performance buildings are often functionally isolated from our neighbors, from our community. Rather than emphasize connectivity, we have built our utility network on the idea that our buildings are at the consuming end of a wire. We aspire to make our buildings independent, but objectively we remain largely interdependent. By recognizing our commonality, we can reimagine our activities, so our buildings use connectivity to provide services that benefit the larger community as well as the building owner or occupant.

High performance solar powered buildings can use the electric utility grid to achieve net zero energy use over the course of a year. When building PV systems generate more electricity then they need, they can push it back into the grid, and when they need electricity, they can pull it from the grid, in essence, using the electrical grid as if it were a large battery.

While this is quite reasonable from a building end user perspective, what happens if we are drawing energy when the electricity is in great demand and pushing electricity onto it when there is already an excess of electricity? Looking at the system from the grid perspective is a different point of view. High performance buildings can make utility electricity problems worse.

By intelligently connecting buildings we can respond appropriately to utility grid needs, and provide services. To some extent this has been happening for many years in the form of “demand response” where building owners opt to reduce their power consumption when the utility is stressed in meeting demand. In turn, building owners receive reduced electricity charges.

But this is only the beginning. When we aggregate neighborhoods of buildings, we can provide a wide variety and quantity of services to the grid. In addition to demand response, buildings can (thanks to on site solar electricity generation) supply low carbon electricity to the grid. Buildings can shift loads, to use electricity when there is an over supply. Buildings (using batteries or thermal systems) can store energy for use later. Portfolios of buildings can even provide voltage regulation in useful quantities.

These ancillary products of high performance buildings are of great value economically to both the building owner and to the utility providing electricity and electricity distribution services. They are worth money, and a building that has always carried a utility operating cost can now be designed to have an operating income. And perhaps even more importantly, buildings communicating with the grid can help the grid run more smoothly, and by decarbonizing the electricity reduce the pollution and greenhouse gas emissions associated with providing utility services to us all.

Connecting buildings to act as an asset to the utility grid turns our current “end user” paradigm on its head. Individual projects can multiply their positive impact by increasing connectedness. As more of us coordinate with electrical utility systems, we have a stronger base of resources, a more resilient electrical grid, and more sources of income.

The bioclimatic design approach described in Design with Climate now has a renewed urgency. As we design our new buildings and redesign our existing buildings to purposefully engage with their context and climate and community, we can readily reduce building energy use and emissions at marginal cost. Connecting with climate, and intelligently connecting with the utility grid empowers buildings to have a positive environmental impact. With the issue of climate change looming ever sharper, the design community must recognize their deep connection to the climate issue, and take responsibility for moving the design professions and society forward to a solution.

In our commonality we find a larger, critical context that is set by our interdependence. Indeed, as Merton noted, in community we complete one another, and recognize our common home.


DesignVictor W. Olgyay is an architect and the son of the author of Design with Climate.

Conversations on Climate: Victor W. Olgyay on Design for Climate

NEW climate pic

Design with Climate is Design for Climate
by Victor W. Olgyay

climate change 2Our environmental crisis is real, and it is of our own creation. It is shocking that we humans are intentionally destroying the foundations of our existence, fouling our nest beyond repair. And we appear incapable of stopping ourselves from continuing to further worsen the problem.

Perhaps the issue is not irredeemable. After all, the climate crisis has had a long, slow burn. It has been a hundred years in the making, and has had the contribution of millions of individuals who have been polluting in the name of progress.

Now, in 2015 we are aware of what the uncoordinated actions of 7.3 billion people working for progress results in. We understand the origins of the ever-increasing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. And we can both see the path forward, and we can design the path that we prefer.

Globally, buildings are the largest end use energy sector. We need to take dramatic steps today to address the global climate crisis, and that requires improving the energy performance of existing and new buildings. By doing this we will be able to shift economically to a renewable, low carbon energy supply.

We can reduce energy use in new and existing buildings dramatically and we can accomplish much of this through low and no cost measures. Simply designing buildings to work with local climatic conditions can reduce energy use by 50 percent or more. Design with Climate, a book written over 50 years ago, and recently republished by Princeton University Press, shows exactly how to do that. In essence, bioclimatic design information tells us how to shade our windows and walls during overheated periods, and to let in the sun’s warmth in when it is desirable. We can use daylight to illuminate vast amounts of interior space, and ventilate buildings with the wind, rather than fighting it. These ideas and many more result in sensible, responsible design, intelligent use of resources, and can result in beautiful, comfortable buildings.

: Designing with Climate makes buildings more comfortable while using less energy.

Designing with Climate makes buildings more comfortable while using less energy.

Since Design with Climate was written in 1963, several things have happened that make this even easier. We have more effective building insulation systems, which dramatically reduce heat loss and gain. We have better windows, and better techniques for building to reduce air and moisture infiltration. And we have sophisticated computer energy modeling techniques that accurately predict how buildings will preform before we build them, so building performance can become an integral part of building design.

And one more thing: we have that environmental crisis I started with. When Design with Climate was first published in 1963, the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere was 320 parts per million (ppm), and today it is over 400ppm. In 1963 Rachael Carson had just written Silent Spring, and the environmental movement was nascent. Today the polar ice caps are melting, and global warming is threatening our very existence.

climate change 1We are now building extremely low energy buildings, zero energy buildings, and even buildings that produce more energy then they consume. Retrofitting existing buildings to use less energy, and building new superefficient structures paves the way for our renewable energy powered future, and combats climate change.

We must design not only with, but also for climate. Building design has implications we must use for our benefit. And through this engaged conversation with nature we can usher in a design solution to our climate crisis. That is true progress that can align millions of people.


Olgyay_DesignPB_F15_NewAndExpanded
Victor W. Olgyay is an architect and the son of the author of Design with Climate.

Presenting the new video trailer for AFFORDABLE HOUSING IN NEW YORK

New York City, as expensive as it is progressive, has long had the need for high-quality affordable housing. Affordable Housing in New York, edited by Nicholas Dagen Bloom and Matthew Gordon Lasner, is a richly illustrated, dynamic portrait of an evolving city and the pioneering efforts to make it livable for lower and middle income residents. The book and its photos by David Schalliol was subject of this fabulous New York Times feature this past Sunday. We’re excited to offer you a peek inside, here:

 

Victor Olgyay: Architecture is the cause and solution to climate related problems

design with climatePrinceton University Press has just reprinted Design with Climate: Bioclimatic Approach to Architectural  Regionalism, by Victor Olgyay, more than 50 years after its initial printing in 1963. Design with Climate describes an integrated design approach that remains a cornerstone of high performance architecture.

Victor Olgyay (1910-1970) was associate professor in the School of Architecture and Urban Planning at Princeton University. He was a leading researcher on the relationship between architecture, climate, and energy. His son, Victor W. Olgyay, is an architect and principal at Rocky Mountain Institute and was instrumental in reissuing this book. For this updated edition, he commissioned four new essays that provide unique insights on issues of climate design, showing how Olgyay’s concepts work in contemporary practice. Ken Yeang, John Reynolds, Victor W. Olgyay, and Donlyn Lyndon explore bioclimatic design, eco design, and rational regionalism, while paying homage to Olgyay’s impressive groundwork and contributions to the field of architecture.

Victor W. Olgyay spoke to Molly Miller about Design with Climate then and now.

Did Design with Climate change design when it came out in 1963?

VO: It wasn’t really very popular in the United States when it came out, but it soon became genuinely popular in South America. Our whole family moved to Colombia, South America, so my father could teach bioclimatic design there. He did research with his students using local climate zones and generated very interesting regional designs and published different versions of Design with Climate in Colombia and Argentina. This was in 1967-70. There are still clandestine editions in Spanish and Portuguese floating around, as well as in my fathers’ archives at Arizona State University.

My father died on Earth Day, April 22, 1970. Soon afterwards the 1973 oil embargo began and energy became a serious topic. That’s when Design with Climate caught people’s attention in the US because here was a book showing architects how they could respond to critical contemporary issues. Design with Climate suddenly was adopted in dozens of schools of architecture in the US and became a popular textbook. The broad popularity of the book had to do with Earth Day and with the oil crisis, but in the architecture community it was seen as a keystone helping bridge the emerging environmental architecture movement and analytic regionalism. That’s when it began to affect how architects approach design.

What is bioclimatic design?

VO: My father coined the term “bioclimatic design.” Bioclimatic design uses nature’s energies to harmonize buildings with local conditions. The physics of the environment, such as solar radiation and the convection of wind are employed as formal influences to create a climate balanced design. A diagram in the book shows four interlocking circles: biology, climatology, technology, and architecture. The lines of the circles are soft multi-layered lines, emblematic of the riparian merging of these disciplines. Bioclimatic design takes these disciplines and considers them together. For me this is the approach of a polymath, where when you consider things from different worlds together, you learn something completely new. You have insights you wouldn’t have gotten if they were isolated.

Screen Shot 2015-10-22 at 2.53.49 PM
In this model, people are at the center of the diagram. Biology addresses people’s needs for thermal and visual comfort. Synthesizing these disciplines results in a superior architecture. My father believed architecture’s ultimate purpose is to provide a place for the human spirit to lift, and support the human endeavor.

On a more practical level, a large part of this book is devoted to a design process. What if climate informs the design? How can you optimize nature and apply it to buildings?

VO: What’s really different about this approach is that my father looked carefully at how these fields are inter-related and did the analysis. This process is shown in the book. He took fairly complicated data about climate and made it into manageable design steps. He advocated working with climate to reduce energy use by orientation, shading, natural ventilation etc. In one example, he used wind tunnels with smoke to visualize air currents. Seeing the air currents allows an architect to make adjustments in their design, perhaps slightly moving the edge of an overhang next to a building to optimize natural ventilation.

How is this book relevant today?

VO: Today, more than ever, we have identified architecture as the cause and solution to a large percentage of our climate related problems. It is impossible for us to transition to a low carbon economy without reducing the energy consumption of buildings. To do that, we need to take into account bioclimatic design and Design with Climate shows us how to get that into our lexicon again.

Integrated design has taken off. Today, we have a renaissance of people thinking about green design. Not only do we need to design with climate, we now have to design for a changing climate and address global issues with architecture.

But even though we can say green design is becoming mainstream, the concepts in Design with Climate are still widely overlooked. Let’s take shading as an example. Many ‘green’ architects are still cladding their entire building in glass, which is neither comfortable nor energy efficient and ignores climatic information.

Architects rarely recognize how a building affects people and the environment. It’s surprising to me that architects don’t use climatic information more. It’s a gift to be able to make a space that people find thermally and visually comfortable. That can make an inspired design! There are dire consequences to designing a glass box. It’s critical today for architects to have a modicum of morality in design. This is the awareness that Design with Climate brings. There’s no penalty for your design to work with climate, just benefits.

Has this new edition of Design with Climate been changed or updated?

VO: As an existing book, it seemed classic and I wanted to honor that. So we reprinted the entire original manuscript exactly as it first appeared. But we added some essays to provide contemporary context. Donlyn Lyndon worked with my father on the original research. John Reynolds, professor emeritus at University of Oregon, has been teaching bioclimatic design for 40 years. Ken Yeang, who has been working with ecological design with tall buildings, brings Design with Climate into the 21st Century. These essays each add color and context and show how Design with Climate was a steppingstone to our contemporary architecture.

What does this book mean to you personally and professionally?

VO: I have always been interested in the implications of architecture and form. Our work is important, and can have a positive impact in the world. My father’s book has reached hundreds of thousands of people and encouraged environmental architects. I am very thankful that this book has had that influence. It is an honor for me to assist with this new edition, so this book endures as an inspiration for others to honor the earth, and to support the evolution of the human spirit.

Princeton University Press and Places Journal Launch Places Books

Princeton, NJ, October 8, 2014 – Princeton University Press and Places Journal are excited to announce a new series: Places Books. The series will present smart, lively, peer-reviewed titles on architecture, landscape, and urbanism that are characterized by strong narrative, provocative argument, and engaging prose. Featuring the work of emerging and established scholars alike, Places Books will offer readers a range of the best contemporary writing on the built environment.

Places Books

Interested readers can sign up for a newsletter to learn more about forthcoming books in the series.

Edited by Nancy Levinson and Josh Wallaert and published by Princeton University Press, the books will be developed from Places articles and expanded into compact and accessible paperbacks and e-books with the aim of inciting dialogue across disciplines. According to Nancy Levinson, Editor and Executive Director of Places Journal, “We are thrilled to be collaborating with Princeton University Press. Places Books is an exciting opportunity to bring the very best public scholarship in design to a wider readership.”

The collaboration was conceived as an alternative to lengthy and heavily illustrated scholarly studies in art, architecture, and urbanism. Though the volumes will feature sophisticated design, lavish production values will be set aside to ensure that Places Books are affordable for a wide range of readers. The subjects of the series will be more timely and topical than authors would take on in traditional monographic projects, but investigated at greater length than in journal articles.

Places Books will launch with two titles. Where are the Women Architects?, by architectural historian Despina Stratigakos, will be an insightful exploration of why women have historically been underrepresented in architecture and what’s being done to rectify the imbalance. D.J. Waldie’s The Poetics of Suburbia will use photography and text to establish a new vocabulary for how suburban spaces are discussed, represented, and experienced. According to Michelle Komie, Executive Editor for Art and Architecture at Princeton University Press, “We want Places Books to influence a wider cultural conversation. Our goal is large: to reinvigorate the tradition of the public intellectual in architecture and urbanism.”

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About Places Journal

Places is a leading journal of contemporary architecture, landscape, and urbanism, dedicated to harnessing the moral and investigative power of ambitious public scholarship to promote equitable cities and sustainable landscapes. Founded in 1983 by faculty at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of California, Berkeley, Places was a print journal for twenty-five years before moving fully online in 2009. Places is supported by an international network of academic partners as well as institutional and individual donors, whose collective engagement ensures that the journal’s rich and substantial content remains publicly accessible and free of charge.

About Princeton University Press

Princeton University Press is an independent publisher with close connections, both formal and informal, to Princeton University. As such it has overlapping responsibilities to the University, the academic community, and the reading public. Our fundamental mission is to disseminate scholarship (through print and digital media) both within academia and to society at large.

Contact:

Julia Haav, Senior Publicist, Princeton University Press

Nancy Levinson, Editor and Executive Director, Places Journal

 

 

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Book trailer for Atlas of Cities edited by Paul Knox


Princeton University Press senior designer Jason Alejandro created this book trailer for Atlas of Cities edited by Paul Knox. (The catchy song in the background is the aptly named “Weekend in the City” by Silent Partner.)

8-7 Atlas of Cities Atlas of Cities
Edited by Paul Knox

 

Bob Geddes to Give Talk, Tour, and Book Signing at the Institute for Advanced Study

Calling all Princeton-area architecture fans: Bob Geddes will be giving a lecture, tour, and book signing of Fit: An Architect’s Manifesto, at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, NJ, on Saturday, April 5th, from 10:00 AM to 1:30 PM (EDT), sponsored by DOCOMOMO Philadelphia and DOCOMOMO NY/Tri-State.

Tickets and full event details are available via Eventbrite ($20 for DOCOMOMO members / $25 for non-members / FREE for IAS faculty, scholars, and staff).

Photo: Amy Ramsey, Courtesy of Institute for Advanced StudyMake it New, Make it Fit

The architecture of Geddes, Brecher, Qualls, and Cunningham (GBQC) has been largely overlooked in recent years—despite a remarkable and influential body of work beginning with their runner-up submission for the Sydney Opera House (1956). As significant contributors (along with Louis Kahn) to the “Philadelphia School,” GBQC’s efforts challenged modernist conceptions of space, functional relationships, technology, and—with an urbanist’s eye—the reality of change over time.

To explore the thinking behind the work, founding partner Robert Geddes, FAIA, will speak about his recent publication, Fit: An Architect’s Manifesto. In addition, Geddes will guide a tour through the venue for his talk, the Institute of Advanced Study’s Simmons Hall—a GBQC masterwork of 1971. Geddes will also participate in an informal discussion with participants during lunch at the IAS Cafeteria.

Schedule
10:00-10:30am      Dilworth Room. Event check in. Coffee served.
10:30-11:15am        Make it New, Make it Fit Lecture by Bob Geddes
11:15-11:50am        Building Tour
11:50-12:10pm       Lunch at cafeteria where discussion continues
12:10-1:00pm         Lunch and discussion
1:00-1:30pm           Wrap up and book signing.

Parking
LOT ‘B’ enter through West Building. When you arrive at the site, please bring a copy of your tickets, either printed or displayed on your mobile phone.

About the speaker
Robert Geddes is dean emeritus of the Princeton School of Architecture and founding partner of GBQC—recipient of the AIA’s Firm of the Year Award in 1979. Educated under Walter Gropius at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design, Geddes returned to his native Philadelphia in 1950 where he began his work as an educator at the University of Pennsylvania.

New Art and Architecture Catalog!

Be among the first to browse and download our new art and architecture catalog!

http://press.princeton.edu/catalogs/art14.pdf

Of particular interest is T. J. Clark’s Picasso and Truth: From Cubism to Guernica. Was Picasso the artist of the twentieth century? In Picasso and Truth, Clark uses his inimitable skills as art historian and writer to answer this question and reshape our understanding of Picasso’s achievement. Supported by more than 200 images, Clark’s new approach to the central figure of modern art focuses on Picasso after the First World War: his galumphing nudes of the early 1920s, the incandescent Guitar and Mandolin on a Table from 1924, Three Dancers done a year later, the hair-raising Painter and Model from 1927, the monsters and voracious bathers that follow, and finally—summing up but also saying farewell to the age of Cubism—the great mural Guernica.

Also be sure to note Daniel Arasse’s Take a Closer Look. What happens when we look at a painting? What do we think about? What do we imagine? How can we explain, even to ourselves, what we see or think we see? And how can art historians interpret with any seriousness what they observe? In six engaging, short narrative “fictions,” each richly illustrated in color, Arasse, one of the most brilliant art historians of our time, cleverly and gracefully guides readers through a variety of adventures in seeing, from Velázquez to Titian, Bruegel to Tintoretto.

And don’t miss out on Monica Bohm-Duchen’s Art and the Second World War, the first book in English to provide a comprehensive and detailed international overview of the complex and often disturbing relationship between war and the fine arts during this crucial period of modern history. This generously illustrated volume starts by examining the art produced in reaction to the Spanish Civil War (often viewed as “the first battle of World War II”), and then looks at painting, sculpture, prints, and drawing in each of the major combatant nations, including Japan and China. Breathtaking in scope, this scholarly yet accessible publication places wartime art within its broader cultural, political, and military contexts while never losing sight of the power and significance of the individual image and the individual artist.

More of our leading titles in art and architecture can be found in the catalog. You may also sign up with ease to be notified of forthcoming titles at http://press.princeton.edu/subscribe/. Your e-mail address will remain confidential!

If you’re heading to the College Association’s annual meeting in Chicago, IL, February 12th-15th, come visit us at booth 304 and meet our new Executive Editor for Art and Architecture, Michelle Komie. For updates and information on our new and forthcoming titles throughout the meeting, follow #CAA2014 and @PrincetonUnivPress on Twitter. See you there!

New Art and Architecture Catalog!

Art and Architecture CatalogBe among the first to check out our new art and architecture catalog!
http://press.princeton.edu/catalogs/art13.pdf

Of particular interest is Ai Weiwei’s Weiwei-isms, edited by Larry Warsh. Ai Weiwei is one of China’s most influential and inspiring figures. Artist, architect, curator, and activist, he has been an outspoken critic of the Chinese government’s stance on human rights and democracy. This collection of quotes demonstrates the elegant simplicity of Ai Weiwei’s thoughts on key aspects of his art, politics, and life.

Also be sure to note Robert Geddes’ Fit: An Architect’s Manifesto, a book about architecture and society that seeks to fundamentally change how architects and the public think about the task of design. For further reading on architecture, check out the POINT: Essays on Architecture series, featuring titles such as David Joselit’s trenchant illustrated After Art in which the author describes how art and architecture are being transformed in the age of Google.

We’ll also see you at the College Art Association’s annual conference February 13-16 in New York, NY at booth 107. Random drawings for two signed copies of Weiwei-isms will be held. Stop by for a visit and to enter for a chance to win!

Weiwei-isms

A sneak peek at Avian Architecture by Peter Goodfellow

We are publishing Avian Architecture in June. Here, author Peter Goodfellow, reflects on birds as architects which gives us a good opportunity to share some sneak peeks at some page spreads (click on the smaller images below to see larger versions). Enjoy!



This spring I was talking to a lady who said, “Oh, I’m not like you. I really do not like birds!” At the other extreme there are men and women – you may know one – who are fanatical birders, “twitchers” in fact, who must see as many species as possible.

There’s more to the topic of birds than those two points of view. Writers and lovers of wildlife have hit on one quality which birds have which suggests they are not dull or dumb creatures – their ability to be “architects”. One could even say, “We have learned all that skill from the birds, and live like them, as the following examples suggest!”

Take the American Robin Turdus migratorius for example. On arrival in their breeding territory the homely couple build a cup-shaped nest in a bush. It is just big enough to house the growing family. After hatching from four blue eggs the young are tended carefully by both parents. In contrast, the bird world has landed gentry in the impressive presence of Mute Swans Cygnus olor. These large birds build a substantial mound-nest of water weed at the edge of their territory, the lake, which is as jealously guarded by the male against intruders, as any pop-star’s villa surrounded by a wall.

Big societies have their problem inhabitants. Thieves and robbers raid as soon as our backs are turned. Pairs of Eurasian Rooks Corvus frugilegus build high in treetops in a colony of maybe several dozen pairs. Careful observation reveals that the cock birds are repeatedly quick to steal sticks from a neighbour’s nest to build up their own, rather than hunt for new ones.

Many birds are content, like we are, with small families. The Ruby-throated Hummingbird Archilochus colubris builds a tiny nest for a family of just two. The Common Eider Somateria mollissima , however, lays up to ten eggs in a nest on the ground, wonderfully insulated with its own down (mollissima means most soft), which for centuries has been harvested in northern Europe to make – you’ve guessed it – eiderdowns. The young join other families and are looked after in a crêche by other Eiders known as “aunties”.

Birds such as Purple Martins Progne subis use rented accommodation, large specially made nest boxes for several pairs. The Black-legged Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla lives with maybe hundreds of others in a sea- cliff condominium. Each pair builds a sturdy nest of weed on a ledge, where they rear their two young.

In modern Human life there are two aspects which birds thought of first. A fine example of the Do-It-Yourself Bird (or Hen-pecked Husband, depending on your point of view) is the Winter Wren Troglodytes troglodytes. The male may build half a dozen nests in spring. He shows his chosen female a nest who just puts the finishing touches to it, lining it with feathers. In complete contrast is one of the leaders of the Women’s Liberation Movement, the Red-necked Phalarope Phalaropus lobatus. She lays four eggs in a scrape in the ground. She then leaves them, and they are incubated by the male, who continues the home duties by rearing the young until they fledge after about three weeks.

Sir John Collings Squire (1884-1958) was born in my home town of Plymouth – the original Plymouth, England! He was an influential literary editor and published poet. In conclusion, I offer here his thoughts about birds and their nests, and hope that you will find birds’ nests as wonderful as he and I believe:

O delicate chain over all the ages stretched,
O dumb tradition from what far darkness fetched:
Each little architect with its one design
Perpetual, fixed and right in stuff and line,
Each little ministrant who knows one thing,
One learned rite to celebrate the spring.
Whatever alters else on sea or shore,
These are unchanging: Man must still explore.