Avian Urbanism

Like reality television for urban ecologists, Australia-born engineer/artist Natalie Jeremijenko has recently completed 'OOZ, Inc. [...for the birds],' a remotely-monitored social experiment that takes the technology and theories of contemporary urban planning and applies them to a habitat for New York's native bird population. Jeremijenko studied avian traffic above Manhattan's Postmasters gallery and then enlisted seven vanguard architecture firms to create high-density housing units that are customized for the birds and installed in a 1,000 square-foot roof garden. Beginning September 7, visitors downstairs in the gallery can monitor the birdhouses via a live video feed. The project proposes to chart how the birds adapt their behavior to a human-style urban setting, questioning whether they will cooperate, fight, or find new ways to entertain themselves once their basic survival needs are met. In addition to dwellings, the architects have developed cultural sites, including a concert hall and a shopping mall. Will the project radically alter the behavior of its denizens? Maybe. But 'OOZ' definitely offers a telling caricature of our own urban social technologies and, at the very least, provides a few lucky birds with a tailor-made space in a city that is otherwise designed to accommodate humans.