The Birds and the Bees Installation
The Frank Institute at CR10 Exhibition //Linlithgo, NEW YORK // Summer 2016
How can we build with and for other species? What would it mean to leave gaps, create space—to foster conditions of possibility that open towards meaningful cohabitation? How can we reject the assumption of a fundamental break between humans and animals without collapsing difference, while recognizing heterogeneity? “The Birds and the Bees” proposes a locus of cohabitation for pollinators and humans. A suite of drawings, molds, and prototypes traces the development of panels for a multi-species façade system. Modular wall panels propose combinations of materials and aperture sizes to create new dwelling typologies for local cavity-nesting birds and solitary bees. “The Birds and the Bees” is part of a series of Harrison Atelier speculative building projects that explore human/non-human species cohabitation in the Anthropocene period. The wall panels displayed are designed to house small, cavity-nesting birds and hole-dwelling bees. We anticipate developing increasingly species-specific material and programmatic specifications as we progress through our experimental panel iterations and scientifically-informed, localized species observations.
Beyond the Birdhouse
Most commercially available or even DIY birdhouses are designed for human convenience, often to maximize the use of a single piece of lumber, and usually resembling a miniature human house. The human-like roof makes a good perch for predators, especially during nesting season when birds may leave the nest as often as every fifteen minutes; also, the flat base of most bird boxes do not allow for drainage and can accrue fungus and bacteria. Harrison Atelier’s species panels in “The Birds and the Bees” program the needs of the intended non-human residents, while offering humans greater convenience and aesthetic value than standard birdhouses. Panel installation directly into the building façade eliminates the need for a roof, while channels along the panel interiors drain water from the nest cavities. Apertures are sized to deter predators, while the outpocketing that forms the nesting cavity contains a ladder to help fledglings crawl out of the nest.
Possible bird residents in the Northeastern United States include a variety of wrens, nuthatches, titmice, swallows, and chickadees. Aperture size is a crucial variable determining which species will nest: panels with a 1” diameter entrance size are ideal for House Wrens; 1 1/8 ” is good for Black Capped Chickadees; and 1 ¼” is convenient for the Red-Breasted Nuthatch and Tufted Titmouse. Apertures smaller than 1 ¼” have the additional benefit of keeping out invasive House Sparrows, which can displace birds from their nests.
Deposing the Honeybee Imaginary – Long Live the Solitary Bee!
The honeybee has historically captured our imagination, but most of the estimated twenty thousand bee species are in fact solitary bees. Solitary bees, as their name suggests, do not live in hives or in groups but alone, in tunnels or holes in the ground, soft rock, or wood, where a lone female builds and provisions her nest. Solitary bees do not make honey, and so have less potent stingers or lack stingers altogether—no need to fend off foraging mammals—which, combined with their tendency towards non-aggressive behavior, makes them friendly neighbors for humans.
Some 4,000 solitary bees are native to North America. From the tiny Perdita to the much larger carpenter bee; from the drinking-straw-tongued Anthophora affabilis to the bright blue sand-dweller Augochloropsis sumptuosa, these bees comprise a wide variety of sizes, colors, shapes and behaviors, corresponding to the diversity of flowers and plants which they have co-evolved to pollinate. Honeybees have been the agrobusiness go-to pollinator, yet solitary bees have been pollinating North American plants for centuries, each solitary bee to its plant, on a local, co-evolved basis. In the wake of widespread CCD (Colony Collapse Disorder), which wiped out honeybee hives in alarming numbers earlier this decade, the efficiency, adaptability, and resiliency of local solitary bees has been noticed by growers, who have been using them to supplement their honeybees, even replacing them entirely on some smaller farms. The proposed bee habitats on display may be said to program extra value for hole-nesting solitary bees, such as Mason and Leafcutter Bees, species that do not bore their own holes, but find existing ones, preferring those with diameters from 1/4” to 3/8”. The smallest holes in the current grouping of panels, 1/8” in diameter, may attract bees such as the Harebell Bee, provided that their favorite plant, the bellflower, is growing nearby.
Team // Ariane Harrison, Seth Harrison, Daniel Longoria, Kieran Gillen, Victoria Ereskina, Luna Beller-Tadiar, Matt Bohne, Gary Kolkau