Last summer, 33 architects including SO – IL, Walter Hood, Nina Cooke, Steven Holl, Tatiana Bilbao Estudio, Studio Barnes, and others unveiled custom-made birdhouses at the Brooklyn Botanical Garden. Each functioned effectively as a miniature manifesto, embodying the aesthetics and philosophy of each practice on display for birds and ornithophiles alike. In 2020, artist and architect Jason Sargenti designed architect-made birdhouses of his own now on display this summer at PHX Gallery in Chicago with his new show, The Architect’s Birdhouses.
Sargenti’s show includes eight models made by the architect that double as follies riffing on postmodern aesthetics and functional birdhouses. According to Sargenti, each model is made of “painted sandpaper and somber pattern painted wood.”
Patrick Birdhouse (Joachim Lapôtre/Courtesy PHX Gallery)
Some models, such as a replica of Philip Johnson’s AT&T Building in Midtown Manhattan, draw direct inspiration from existing postmodern buildings while others are Sargenti’s own design. Patrick Birdhouse is inspired by Hans Hollein (Austrian Travel Agency Headquarters) and the painter Nagel’s Deco revival styling. “The house is all about the shadows that fall from the trees,” Sargenti stated.
“The motivation for making these birdhouses came from a desire to provide some contrast in my surroundings,” Sargenti said in an artistic statement. “Initially, I would purchase ugly birdhouses and renovate them. My plan included distributing them to open fields around my rural Upstate NY community, to provide homes for songbirds. Eventually those were all either stolen or used as target practice by the locales. The proceeding iterations, made during quarantine, were less for distribution to a hostile community and more to maintain my own sanity. The resulting constructions are fantasies, speculations and inspiration that continue a discourse in speculative design.”
One model, Flamingo Birdhouse, revisits Memphis Group’s Flamingo side table designed by Michele de Lucchi. Sargenti reinterpreted de Lucchi’s design with a “Z-shaped” profile. “All the original elements of the Memphis Flamingo side-table are there but re-arranged like a puzzle into a flamingo,” the artist said.
Growing up Sargenti spent time in South Florida with his mom as she documented luxury beach homes for publications and in New York City where he tagged along on fashion photoshoots with his brother; an experience the artist brings into the exhibition.
“It was only in the last several years that I began to piece together the historical context that exerted so much influence over me (that which people label generically as the ’80s). My perspective is less a longing for the return to the age of decadence and more a feeling that there is fertile ground to mine for ideation,” Sargenti said.
Jason Sargenti is an architect in New York with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree. He teaches at the New York Institute of Technology. The Architect’s Birdhouses can be viewed by appointment until September 13 at PHX Gallery, located in Uptown Chicago.