A new urban intervention is designed to make avian life a little easier by providing some extra habitat. Strap one of these birdhouses on a lamppost or street sign during nesting season, and birds will have a new place to live.
“I’ve lived in London for about 10 years now, but I actually grew up in the countryside,” says designer Robin Howie, who created the Nest Project. “So I would wake up to birdsong everyday, and I was surrounded by nature. After a few years of living in the city, it became apparent to me the things that were missing.”
As much as they provide temporary habitat, the birdhouses are also meant to point out the lack of nature. “They can become homes for birds, but they also highlight where nature could be in the urban environment,” he says. “They’re kind of urban interventions and homes at the same time.”
The design also requires a little playful volunteer work: The perch at the bottom of the nest doubles as a pencil sharpener. Howie hopes that everyone who buys a birdhouse will spend a week working in pencil and collect pencil shavings to pad the bottom of the nest.
“Anybody could essentially buy a birdhouse and put it up in the city, but I want people who are involved with the project to feel like they’re contributing to a home for a bird,” he says. “When you sharpen a pencil, it’s actually kind of pre-populating this nest with stuff to make it feel cozy and comfy.”
Unlike most urban interventions, this one requires permission. “You don’t want to put them up, have a nest starting life, and then have someone from the city take them away,” Howie says. The birdhouse comes with a set of instructions explaining how to hang it and how to work with city officials.
The new prototypes haven’t been tested yet, since London is past nesting season. Eventually, Howie wants to make two additional variations: A birdhouse that tweets photos of the baby birds inside, and another that tracks local air pollution.
Visit The Nest Project to sign up for updates about when the birdhouses will be available.