Formique #2

Formique is an ongoing series that comments on contemporary architecture that ignores some of the basic human, environmental and other concerns that architecture should address, all in the name of formal invention.

[166 Perry Street by Asymptote Architecture | image source]

A story in NY Daily News on Asymptote Architecture's first ground-up building in Manhattan at 166 Perry Street in the West Village is aptly titled Reflect On This! One thing the faceted glass curtain wall reflects is the sky, which makes me want to quote Eartheasy's post on a side effect of such a thing: "Birds often strike windows because they see a reflection of clouds, sky or trees which gives the mistaken impression that they are flying into open air." The prevalence of all-glass exterior facades is mind-boggling when one takes into consideration the avoidable harm to our fine-feathered friends. Very few architects actually address this concern (Studio Gang comes to mind), and in the case of 166 Perry Street the privacy of the residents trumps the lives of birds.


  1. It sounds like the bird-slaughtering architecture is not "all in the name of formal invention," then--it was a matter of a tradeoff: the architect prioritized other values (like view and privacy) over bird safety. While you may disagree with their solution, it's not the same as a senseless formal conceit.

  2. Perhaps not the same, but bad. The "conceit" part seems to hold true. CM

  3. While some windows reflect the sky and trees, others reflect the street life below. With this mix of images I would imagine birds would think twice before trying to fly through.

    The Eartheasy post mentioned that step 1 of preventing this is observation. Has anyone noticed a problem with this particular building or is it just speculation?

  4. My post is speculation in regards to the potential harm arising from the design of this building. Nevertheless I think the potential is greater with the angled windows...though the mix of up/down trajectories in the glass may help alleviate problems.

    The worst offender I've witnessed is the dormitory at IIT by Helmut Jahn, across the street from OMA's more well-known student center. The dorm features courtyards open to the street but closed off from the elevated tracks for noise purposes by a clear glass wall (6th photo at link). I walked along the train-side of the building once and noticed a number of dead birds. On my most recent visit to the campus (3-4 years ago) large black mesh tarps were installed in front of the glass walls. This scenario relates to Eartheasy's suggestion #2 about through-house line of sight. The same can be said for bridges with glass on both sides. I learned the hard way when designing one, later adding bird decals to the glass prevent strikes.

  5. Thank you for reminding us this issue and the linked article. I spread it in our office. But I think it's a bit too soon to blame Asymptote if it's just based on speculation.

    You are right, birds are almost never a factor when we design sth. One reason is to precisely predict their behavior pattern is a science, they surely don't strike on most of the glazing surfaces. Action should be taken when we find some glazing particularly troubles the birds.

    For the building, I really like it. I can imagine how difficult an innovative idea finally get through the client, get built, and bring new experience to the user and the public.

  6. We woke today, in our stormy house in british columbia, to see 2 eagles soaring outside our window. I wondered to myself, if an eagle has ever impacted a glass window? With birds like that around, we'd be better off buying windows with impact resistant glass. If they can make windows stand up to category 5 hurricanes, cant they make some that just bounce birds?

  7. These foldable walls remind me of that old '6-pack' apartment project. Does anyone know that one, I believe it's on a beach somewhere. It seems like a great way to transform a simple space into a dynamic indoor/outdoor patio.

    Haynes Architects


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