High-design bird blind

Sam Fox School creates avian observatory in the Riverlands confluence

Think of it as reverse camouflage.

In the wild, animals use color and pattern to disguise themselves from predators. But last spring, a team from Washington University in St. Louis flipped the calculus. How, they asked, do we keep human observers from disturbing animals in their natural environments?

Over the last nine months, that question has been one of the driving forces behind the creation of a new avian observatory located near the confluence of the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers. The area represents an important habitat for trumpeter swans, great blue herons, bald eagles, gulls, geese, pelicans and other wildlife that, each spring and fall, migrate along the Mississippi flyway.

Working in collaboration with the Audubon Center at Riverlands and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Rivers Project Office, more than two dozen architecture students from the university’s Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts deployed cutting-edge digital fabrication technology to design and build the observatory. It was formally dedicated Aug. 28.

Leading the project were Andrew Colopy and Ken Tracy, both visiting assistant professors in the Sam Fox School.

The project team included: Nike Cao, Emily Chen, Wassef Dabboussi, Duan Duan, Can Fu, Jina Kim, Masha Konopleva, Chun Liu, Joe Lomas, Yiyang Min, David Orndorff, Yiming Pan, Glenn Park, Chris Quinlin, Yu Rong, James Struthers, Yilong Wang, Nash Waters, Hao Wu, Yao Xia, Yu Xin, Shuojin Yang, Haosheng Zhang and Han Zhu.

Creation of the observatory was funded by the Sam Fox School, the Audubon Center and the Army Corp of Engineers, with additional support from WUSTL’s Gephardt Institute for Public Service.

From left to right: Emily Chen, James Struthers, Andrew Colopy and Joe Lomas finishing work on the recently completed avian observatory at the Audubon Center at Riverlands. Photo by Danny Reise/WUSTL Photos.