WUSTL

High-design bird blind

Sam Fox School creates avian observatory in the Riverlands confluence


Think of it as reverse camouflage.

In the wild, animals use color and pattern to disguise themselves from predators. But last spring, a team from Washington University in St. Louis flipped the calculus. How, they asked, do we keep human observers from disturbing animals in their natural environments?

Over the last nine months, that question has been one of the driving forces behind the creation of a new avian observatory located near the confluence of the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers. The area represents an important habitat for trumpeter swans, great blue herons, bald eagles, gulls, geese, pelicans and other wildlife that, each spring and fall, migrate along the Mississippi flyway.

Working in collaboration with the Audubon Center at Riverlands and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Rivers Project Office, more than two dozen architecture students from the university’s Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts deployed cutting-edge digital fabrication technology to design and build the observatory. It was formally dedicated Aug. 28.

Leading the project were Andrew Colopy and Ken Tracy, both visiting assistant professors in the Sam Fox School.

The project team included: Nike Cao, Emily Chen, Wassef Dabboussi, Duan Duan, Can Fu, Jina Kim, Masha Konopleva, Chun Liu, Joe Lomas, Yiyang Min, David Orndorff, Yiming Pan, Glenn Park, Chris Quinlin, Yu Rong, James Struthers, Yilong Wang, Nash Waters, Hao Wu, Yao Xia, Yu Xin, Shuojin Yang, Haosheng Zhang and Han Zhu.

Creation of the observatory was funded by the Sam Fox School, the Audubon Center and the Army Corp of Engineers, with additional support from WUSTL's Gephardt Institute for Public Service.


From left to right: Emily Chen, James Struthers, Andrew Colopy and Joe Lomas finishing work on the recently completed avian observatory at the Audubon Center at Riverlands. Photo by Danny Reise/WUSTL Photos.



MEDIA CONTACTS
Liam Otten
Art News Director
(314) 935-8494
liam_otten@wustl.edu
Slideshow
Over the spring and summer, students from the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts designed, fabricated and constructed a new avian observatory for the Audubon Center at Riverlands. Here, they install wooden formwork in preparation for pouring the concrete foundation.
Aluminum frames were constructed in the Digital Initiatives Lab in Givens Hall, then transported to the site.
The project team at groundbreaking in early May.
The framing approaches completion.
Emily Chen. Photo by Danny Reise/WUSTL Photo.
From left to right: Emily Chen, James Struthers, Andrew Colopy and Joe Lomas. Photo by Danny Reise/WUSTL Photos.
No two side panels are exactly alike, meaning that each had to be individually fabricated. The red and turquoise accents were chosen in tribute to the Army Corp of Engineers and the Audubon Center, respectively. Photo by Danny Reise/WUSTL Photo.
James Struthers, Joe Lomas and Andrew Colopy. Photo by Danny Reise/WUSTL Photo.
The design called for raising the site by about four feet – just enough to give observers a view over native grasses and other vegetation. Photo by Danny Reise/WUSTL Photo.
The view looking eastward towards Heron Pond. Photo by Danny Reise/WUSTL Photo.
Window angles were carefully calibrated to keep observers in the shade whatever the time of day, thus helping to camouflage them from the wildlife. Photo by Danny Reise/WUSTL Photo.
The finished structure. Photo by Danny Reise/WUSTL Photo.