Imaginative, sustainable & award winning architecture

Birds in the blocks

Not concerned that they were designed for House Sparrows, a Blue Tit  family has been incubating their brood in one Union Street Urban Orchard ‘duplexes’ over the last few weeks.

Blue Tit leaving Nestworks Block at the Union Street Urban Orchard.  Photo: Peter Thomas

The adapted readymades, fashioned from a standard Lignacite block, were the first prototypes installed for the 2010 London Festival of Architecture, so its fitting that they were also the first to be occupied.

Commissioned by the Architecture Foundation as a permanent legacy for the festival, Nestworks feature in the ‘Union Street Urban Orchard Book : A Case Study of Creative Interim Use’ which will be available from The Architecture Foundation website and at the book launch tonight.

View: Birds of Bankside

Visit: Urban Birds website.

Urban Birds

Around Valentine’s Day courting birds across the UK will begin inspecting potential nesting sites. Informed and inspired by ornithological derives with Peter Holden MBE, 51% studios architecture has planted scores of ‘assisted readymades’ across the Bankside Urban Forest to increase the variety of nesting options open to its urban birds, many of whom are on the endangered list.

We discovered that the standard hollow block used to build some of London’s most celebrated architecture is made from concrete bulked with recycled woodshavings, a material that when used in nestboxes is proven to fledge more young than any other.

Synergistically the interior block dimensions are text book size for house sparrows, radically in decline in the area. Other species designed for are blue tits, great tits, starlings, wrens, robins and blackbirds.

A website, www.urbanbirds.net,  launches on Valentine’s Day to allow nesting activity to be tracked by families and bird lovers across the area. Nestworks is a public project and a people’s project, commissioned by the Architecture Foundation as a permanent legacy for the London Festival of Architecture.

View: Birds of Bankside

Visit: Urban Birds website

Urban Birds Nestworks

51% studios has designed three Nestworks for the urban birds of Bankside featuring a series of sophisticated readymades: blocks, boughs and bushes as part of the 2010 London Festival of Architecture.

The design is responsive, site specific and provocative: informed by ornithological derives with Peter Holden, locally celebrated for initiating the annual peregrine falcon public views at Tate Modern. The project was commissioned by the Architecture Foundation, and takes its inspiration from Witherford Watson Mann’s Bankside Urban Forest Strategy.

Nestworks 1 2 3 are a direct response to the festival’s theme of exchange: of knowledge, habitat, materials. We discovered that the standard hollow block used to build some of London’s most celebrated architecture is made from concrete with 55% recycled woodpulp, a material that when used in nestboxes is proven to fledge more young than any other. Synergistically the interior block dimensions are text book sizes for house sparrows, radically in decline in the area. Other species designed for are blue tits, great tits, starlings, wrens, robins and blackbirds.

Nestworks 1 2 3 is a legacy project delivered with support from Peter Holden, the Architecture Foundation, Riverford Organic and Lignacite.

Maps showing locations of the Nestworks, some of which are hidden, will available in the Orchard at Union Street from June 19th, or to download.

A related birdwalk and a new talk by Peter and Andy Holden will take place on Saturday 3rd and Sunday  4th July.  Peregrine viewings at the Tate are daily from 12 noon to 7pm, 17 July to 12 September 2010.

View: Birds of Bankside

The Floating Bridge

Today, March 22nd is World Water Day and we are remembering a project we did for the inaugural London Architecture Biennale in Clerkenwell in 2004, working with a gang of nine and ten year olds to construct a floating bridge made from 700 Evian bottles, the second in a series of bridges made from recycled materials …

Lot of Bottle: Our Biennale site was the Farmiloes Courtyard in Clerkenwell, where water has been a centrally important part of history, from its springs, wells and spas and later also breweries and distilleries. Clerkenwell was the site of London’s first reservoir. In the 21st century, though, we have little direct knowledge of where our water comes from and often no longer even drink it from the tap. Water now costs more than soda, milk and gas in the US. The fetishising of water and its packaging is probably the single greatest threat to human and animal survival across the globe.

To connect thinking about the environment with design and engineering more than 700 1.5l Evian bottles were recycled from family life and with cable ties, plumbing pipes and climbing ropes were the primary materials used to create the bridge, which [following some experiments in bouyancy] successfully supported one tonne — that being the combined weight of the young engineers.

Whilst the project is just a teaching aide for now, its commonplace building blocks make it cheap to build. If a small-scale model can divert hundreds of plastic bottles away from landfill, there’s no reason a bigger project couldn’t use up even more in the real world, while creating easily assembled emergency bridges, rafts or a makeshift rescue craft.” Lot of Bottle, Spark 3, The Guardian

The floating bridge was a collaboration between Dallington School, 51% studios and Tim Macfarlane of Dewhurst Macfarlane and Partners. Other bridges have been made from cardboard and paper.

Also on World Water Day, we are wishing all the best of luck to David de Rothschild and the crew of the Plastiki, a boat made of 12,000 plastic bottles, which has just begun a round-the-world trip to highlight the problems of waste in our oceans, much of it caused by plastic bottles.

And we couldn’t end without mentioning one of our favourite sites, The Big Picture, which has a put up a stunning set of National Geographic pictures of water [you can also download a free interactive copy of National Geographic’s April issue on water]

Urban Birds: Nestworks 1 2 3

51% Studios has been invited by the Architecture Foundation to develop strategies and designs for birdboxes around the area designated as the Banside Urban Forest in Witherford Watson Mann’s masterplan.

The birdboxes will be deployed as part of the London Festival of Architecture in June 2010.

View: Birds of Bankside

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