Steven Holl, SO–IL, Walter Hood, and others create avian abodes for new exhibition at Brooklyn Botanic Garden


Steven Holl, SO–IL, Walter Hood, and others create avian abodes for new exhibition at Brooklyn Botanic Garden

Fly South, designed by Germane Barnes of Studio Barnes, is one of 33 birdhouses on view during For the Birds at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. (Courtesy Brooklyn Botanic Garden)

A Miami Beach-inspired retreat for sun-seekers, a wood shingle-clad multifamily residence, and a 3D-printed earthen abode will all debut this month in avian-friendly form at Brooklyn Botanic Garden (BBG)’s For the Birds, an exhibition and event series billed as a “multidisciplinary celebration of the interconnectedness of birds and plants.”

The garden-wide festivities kick take flight beginning on June 11.

The aforementioned creations—designed by Studio Barnes, Joyce Hwang, and SO­–IL in collaboration with Dalma Földesi, Jung In Seo, and Eventscape, respectively—are just three of the 33 site-specific birdhouses that will anchor the BBG’s blockbuster bird bash, which will also feature an indoor gallery exhibition, music, performances, and educational programming inspired by the birds that call the 52-acre botanical garden home. In addition to fêting the garden’s feathered residents, the exhibition will draw attention to the various threats they face.

“Climate change and related destruction of habitat have led to a 30 percent decline in birds across North America,” said Adrian Benepe, president and CEO of the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, in a press statement. “Since 1911, Brooklyn Botanic Garden has been growing, preserving, and promoting plants and conservation—we are home to one of the nation’s first native plant gardens, and our grounds function as a wonderful, protected space for birds.”

For the Birds celebrates and underscores the existential connection between birds and plants, which are entirely mutually dependent, with art, education, and science for an audience of all ages,” Benepe added.

Concept art for Forest of Spaces  by Tatiana Bilbao ESTUDIO (Courtesy Brooklyn Botanical Garden)
rendering of a cylindrical birdhouse with wildflowers in the background
Concept art for Foraged Materials for Foraging Birds by Peterson Rich Office. (Courtesy Brooklyn Botanic Garden)

Among the impressive slate of architects, landscape architects, designers, and artists tapped for the avian architecture exhibition are Miriam Peterson and Nathan Rich of Peterson Rich Office, Tatiana Bilbao ESTUDIO by Helene Schauer, Roman and Williams, Steven Holl and Raphael Mostel, Barry McGee, Tom Sachs, Misha Kahn, and Olalekan Jeyifous, whose Birdega pays tribute to the “vanishing urban ephemera” of New York City such as corner bodegas and storefront churches. Meanwhile, Walter Hood’s A Nest for Crows reimagines the relationship between humans and the prolific winged scavenger-builders with a habitat—“woven together to create form for new life” per Hood—built by us from our own foraged litter, including bottlecaps and other discarded objects.

Several of the 33 birdhouses on display during the run of For the Birds were created with specific species in mind, such as Suchi Reddy’s dome-shaped, Carolina wren nest-inspired The Nest Egg; Nina Cooke John’s Oh Robin!, and Ellen Van Dusen’s Trust Me Downy, a fabricated-from-cedar homage to the downy woodpecker, a species that the Brooklyn textile designer described as being “loud, destructive, personable, and cute.”

“Imagine a really big version of a downy woodpecker,” Van Dusen added. “But make it a birdhouse.”

Presenting sponsor Warby Parker also offered up its own cheeky contribution dubbed Books for Birds. The wooden shelter takes form as a library constructed from books for people-watching patrons, with titles including Rare Brooklynites and Their Nesting Behaviors and People Songs: Vol. 2 (1990–1999).

rendering of a crow habitat built for trash
Concept art for Walter Hood’s A Nest For Crows (Courtesy Brooklyn Botanic Garden)
conceptual rendering of a square blue birdhouse
Concept art for Oh Robin! by Nina Cooke John (Courtesy Brooklyn Botanic Garden)

A full list of the birdhouses and their respective designers as well as their locations within the sprawling, Prospect Park-adjacent BBG campus can be found here.

For the Birds is just one component of The Birdsong Project, a larger just-launched initiative from the exhibition’s creative director, the lauded television and film music supervisor Randall Poster. Later this year, Poster, best known for his work with director Wes Anderson, will release The Birdsong Project, a 20-album set of original recordings created during the COVID-19 lockdown. Encompassing poetry, album cover art, and more than 200 works of original music, The Birdsong Project features a star-studded list of contributors spanning music, film, the visual arts, literature, and poetry. Beck, Elvis Costello, Bette Midler, Philip Glass, Roz Chast, Yo Yo Ma, Nick Cave, Jeff Goldblum, and Rita Dove are just a few of the notable names involved. Some works from The Birdsong Project will be featured during the run of For the Birds via dedicated listening stations and live performances.

“Like a lot of people working from home during the Plague of 2020, I found some solace in the quiet that descended on New York City,” said Poster in a statement. “As someone moved by and working on music all my life, I had my ears opened to the music of the birds and was moved by the beauty and variety of their song. I was not alone. I also learned that bird life was at great threat as habitats are increasingly threatened. And so, inspired by both joy and revelation, the Birdsong Project began.”

visual of a cornerstore-inspired bodega
Concept art for Birdega by Olalekan Jeyifous (Courtesy Brooklyn Botanic Garden)
conceptual rendering of a 3d-printed birdhouse
Concept art for A Palace for the Eastern Bluebird by SO–IL, Dalma Földesi, Jung In Seo, and Eventscape (Courtesy Brooklyn Botanic Garden)

In addition to the birdhouse exhibition, other major programming highlights of For the Birds include an opening celebration on June 11; Birds of the West Indies, an exhibition of works from multidisciplinary artist Taryn Simon on view in the BBG’s Conservatory Gallery (June 7–August 28); weekend birding tours; a liminal soundbath by Alex Sommers, Julianna Barwick, and Mary Lattimore (June 20); a range of family-friendly exhibits; horticulture displays, and much more.

For the Birds runs through the summer and through the beginning of fall, concluding on October 23.