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15. No Crash Zone: Chicago

2015 : Sullivan Galleries, Chicago, IL : School of the Art Institute of Chicago

Project commissioned by SAIC, Sullivan Galleries for “Outside Design,” curated by Jonathan Solomon (Installation managed by Christina Cosio, Sullivan Galleries)

The most significant cause of bird mortality in urban areas is collision with glass. Birds in flight are often unable to distinguish clear glass from open air, particularly if the glass is reflecting sky, trees, or other elements around a building’s contextual environment. Today we see a growing number of organizations that are beginning to address this underacknowledged killing spree. Bird advocacy groups such as The Audubon Society and the American Bird Conservancy are spearheading initiatives by working with researchers to develop bird-safe building guidelines for cities and are publishing reports to assist architects, developers, and building owners to make more informed decisions about window design. Manufacturers are beginning to produce building materials and systems to prevent bird collisions, ranging from window decals (similar to those that we humans deploy to better “see” a glass sliding door) to patterned, fritted glass – intended to add visual “interference” to deter birds from what would be otherwise deadly flight paths. In the realm of sustainability assessment metrics for buildings – which has not typically focused on animal conservation — the USGBC has initiated a LEED Pilot Credit for testing “Bird Collision Deterrence.”

In this eco-urban dilemma, we see an emerging territory for exploration among these conflicts of interests. If indeed building windows have been deemed as the #1 serial killer of urban birds, how then can we reconsider the glass window in a way that does not remove its function as an aperture for view and light? How can we design visual interference patterns into glass without undermining Modernism’s dream of transparency? How can we consider the subjectivity of non-human species, while still enabling and enhancing human desires, such as views from inside out?

NO CRASH ZONE is a temporary “renovation” of a window in the Carson, Pirie, Scott Building to make visible the logics of bird-strike prevention while still aspiring toward architecture’s preoccupations with the humanist subject.

With a nod to the tiling pattern framing the building’s windows, the project aims to create visual noise through the deployment of graphic ornament, reconsidering its role beyond agendas of aesthetic composition.  The installation also taps into the fundamental construction of human vision by overtly referencing the one-point Renaissance perspective, as well as more contemporary optical tactics such as camouflage through pixilation.

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