Bespoke Bird Boxes Teach Durham School Kids The Art Of Design

By Graham Spicer | 11 March 2005
Shows a photograph of a display of innovative, 'cubic' bird boxes

Designer homes that don't require a hefty mortgage. Photo: John Kelly.

A new initiative in Durham has brought together school children and a professional architect to create innovatively designed bird-boxes to enhance the local environment.

The Best Bird Boxes in Britain project, launched on March 9, teamed pupils of Wearhead Primary School, with architect Angus Morrogh-Ryan. Children aged between seven and 11 worked with Angus over a three-month period to create the unique designs.

Shows a photograph of architect Angus Morrogh-Ryan with three pupils from the Wearhead Primary School on the banks of the River Wear with their bird boxes and some trees and Durham Cathedral in the background.

Angus and his team of budding architects have helped to enhance the local environment. Courtesy North News and Pictures.

“The project is an innovative way for young people to develop their creative learning skills and provides them with a valuable insight into the specialist world of a creative professional,” explained Lorna Fulton, Director of joint organisers Creative Partnerships Durham Sunderland.

“We hope that they successfully transfer their newly learnt skills into classroom situations across the whole curriculum.”

Sited on the banks of the River Wear in Durham City, the 25 custom-built bird-boxes are billed as ‘temporary’ pieces of public art. Each of the boxes is tailored to the particular needs of different bird species found in the Durham region.

Shows a photograph of a classroom at the Wearhead Primary School with pupils working on their bird-box designs.

The pupils at Wearhead Primary School get stuck into the creative process. Courtesy Durham Bird Box Project.

“I have been astounded by the extent of the pupils’ existing knowledge of natural habitats, and their enthusiasm to participate and learn has been an inspiration,” said Angus, of London-based architects De Matos Storey Ryan.

Using information from the County Durham Bird Recorder and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, the bird boxes will help work planned by Durham City Council to regenerate and invest in the banks of the Wear.

With subtle colours to blend in with the local habitat they should provide a haven for species including the rare spotted flycatcher and the tawny owl, and are located next to the world heritage site comprising of Durham Cathedral and Durham Castle.

Shows a photograph of two of the completed bird boxes in different shades of green attached to two trees.

These bespoke dwellings are designed to appeal to the different species of birds by the River Wear. Courtesy North News and Pictures.

“The project has been a great success for the children on an academic and social level,” said Liz Gill, Assistant Head and Arts Co-ordinator of Wearhead Primary School.

“They have worked cooperatively with each other using teamwork exercises, as well as interacting with the architect. Being able to bring into the classroom situation a creative professional has enabled the children to gain a tremendous understanding about the importance of quality design and planning.”

Launched by Durham City Arts, the project is also supported by Commissions North (Arts Council England, North East), Durham City Council and Northern Architecture.

It is hoped that members of the public will use the bird boxes as a starting point to explore the varied wildlife of the area, and will raise the profile of nature in Durham City.

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