Architecture by Birds and Insects: A Natural Art

Overview

Influential American architect Philip Johnson once mused, “All architecture is shelter; all great architecture is the design of space that contains, cuddles, exalts, or stimulates the persons in that space.” But with just a small swap of a key word, Johnson could well have been describing animal nests. Birds and insects are nature’s premier architects, using a dizzying array of talents to build functional homes in which to live, reproduce, and care for their young. Recycling sticks, branches, grass, and mud to ...

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Overview

Influential American architect Philip Johnson once mused, “All architecture is shelter; all great architecture is the design of space that contains, cuddles, exalts, or stimulates the persons in that space.” But with just a small swap of a key word, Johnson could well have been describing animal nests. Birds and insects are nature’s premier architects, using a dizzying array of talents to build functional homes in which to live, reproduce, and care for their young. Recycling sticks, branches, grass, and mud to construct their shelters, they are undoubtedly the originators of “green architecture.”
A visual celebration of these natural feats of engineering and ingenuity, Architecture by Birds and Insects allows readers a peek inside a wide range of nests, offering a rare opportunity to get a sense of the materials and methods used to build them. Here, we see the kinds of places where nests are built—for instance, the house wren has been known to occupy cow skulls, flower pots, tin cans, and the pockets of hanging laundry, while the uglynest caterpillar prefers rose bushes and cherry trees. Inspired by the vast nest collection at the Field Museum, which features specimens gathered throughout North and South America, Peggy Macnamara’s paintings are enhanced by text written by museum curators. This narrative provides a foundation in natural history for each painting, as well as fascinating anecdotes about the nests and their builders.
Like so many natural treasures, nests are easy to ignore. But Macnamara’s gorgeous paintings will undoubtedly change that. Architecture by Birds and Insects at last gives the tiniest engineers their rightful moment in the spotlight, and in so doing increases awareness and encourages the protection of birds, insects, and their habitats. Readers will never look at a Frank Gehry design, or a treetop nest, the same way again.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780226500973
  • Publisher: University of Chicago Press
  • Publication date: 8/1/2008
  • Pages: 164
  • Sales rank: 1,148,193
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 9.20 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Peggy Macnamara is adjunct associate professor at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago; artist-in-residence and associate of the zoology program at the Field Museum; instructor at the Field Museum, Chicago Public Libraries Nature Connection, and Art Institute family programs; and author of Illinois Insects and Spiders, also published by the University of Chicago Press.

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Table of Contents

Preface by David Quammen   
 
Nests by Robert Cording     
 
Introduction by Peggy Macnamara
 
Cover Plate
Montezuma Oropendola
Plate I
Variety of Bird Nests   

Part 1 Nests Made by Sewing, Weaving, and Binding  
Plate II
Sewing and Weaving   
Plate III
Caddisfly Larvae         
Plate IV
Bagworm Larvae         
Plate V
Ant Garden     
Plate VI
Argiope Web  
Plate VII
Village Weaver
Plate VIII
Swifts  
Plate IX
Wrens 
Plate X
Osprey
Plate XI
Grebe  
Plate XII
Bald Eagle       
Plate XIII
European White Stork 

Part 2 Nests Made of Paper    
Plate XIV
Paper Wasps   
Plate XV
Polybia Wasp  
Plate XVI
Pasteboard Wasp        
Plate XVII
Wasp Nest in Palm      
Plate XVIII
Ant Nests        

Part 3 Nests Made of Mud      
Plate XIX
Mud Nests      
Plate XX
Ovenbird         
Plate XXI
Potter Wasps  
Plate XXII
Mud Daubers  
Plate XXIII
Polybia Wasp  

Part 4 Nests Made by Depressions and Mounds          
Plate XXIV
Mound Builders           
Plate XXV
Bowerbird       
Plate XXVI
Sandhill Crane 
Plate XXVII
Game Birds     
Plate XXVIII
Emu, Tinamou, and Kiwi          
Plate XXIX
Termite Mound
Plate XXX
Compass Termites       
Plate XXXI
Fungus Garden

Part 5 Nests Made by Carving Wood  
Plate XXXII
Wood Carvers
Plate XXXIII
Woodpeckers 
Plate XXXIV
Carpenter Ants in Aspen Stump            

Part 6 Nests Found Close to Home     
Plate XXXV
Cardinal, Red-winged Blackbird, Brown-headed Cowbird, and Meadowlark   
Plate XXXVI
Baltimore Oriole, Yellow Warbler, Brown-headed Cowbird, and Scarlet Tanager
Plate XXXVII
Robin, Vireos, Thrush, and Redstart     
Plate XXXVIII
Herons
Plate XXXIX
Tent Caterpillars          
Plate XL
Bald-faced Hornets     
Plate XLI
Backyard Bees and Wasps      
Plate XLII
High-rise Spider          
 
Conclusion      
Further reading

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