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Photo: Ann Hermes/CSM Staff
Collections at the Field Museum include more than 100,000 birds killed in collisions with buildings in Chicago,” the Christian Science Monitor reports. “Each bird is stuffed and tagged.”

I learned decades ago that if small birds start flying into my windows, I need to hang up images of hawks or cats to warn them away. Sometimes I bought images of predators from Audubon or Duncraft. Other times I cut shapes out of black cardboard.

For skyscrapers, it’s not so easy, even though suburban homes kill more birds. At the Christian Science Monitor, Richard Mertens writes about the skyscraper challenge.

“The bird lies on its side, a clump of feathers no bigger than a crumpled leaf. It’s just a dark speck on the concrete, with massive glass and steel skyscrapers rising above it in the pre-dawn light.

“Annette Prince sees it at once. She hurries over and lifts it gently in her right hand. It has a slender bill, a tuft of yellow on its rump, and dark eyes that show no glimmer of life. A yellow-rumped warbler, bound for the warmth of the Caribbean or the American South, has met its end in Chicago’s Loop. …

“In the contest between birds and cities, the cities are winning. Scientists estimate that, on average, at least a million birds die in collisions with buildings each day in the United States – and as many as a billion a year. Most perish during the spring and fall migrations in which vast numbers journey up and down the continent, flying mainly at night. City lights attract and disorient them, and many end up crashing into windows, not just the sides of gleaming office towers but suburban patio doors as well. The problem, then, is twofold: lights and glass.

The light from ever-expanding cities is disrupting the movement of creatures that evolved to migrate in the dark, using the stars and the Earth’s magnetism as their guides.

“And the modern architectural penchant for glass has proved deadly for them. Most glass is invisible to birds, appearing either as clear air to fly through or as a reflection of the trees and sky behind them.

“There are growing efforts to make cities safer for birds. The National Audubon Society’s Lights Out programs, in which owners and managers agree to switch off exterior lights during migration, have spread to 45 U.S. cities. Architects and developers are learning how to make buildings bird-friendly by using specially treated glass that birds can see. Grassroots activists like Ms. Prince are monitoring collisions, pressuring businesses and local officials to take bird safety seriously, and in some places asking homeowners to consider their own windows. Scientists say more birds die by hitting houses – urban and rural – than by striking downtown skyscrapers.

“For many conservationists, the issue is far more than birds. … ‘It’s a proxy for a much bigger problem of our stewardship of the planet,’ says Andrew Farnsworth, an ornithologist with the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and an expert on bird collisions. …

“A 2019 study by the Cornell Lab concluded that the North American bird population had declined by 29%, more than 3 billion birds, over the previous half-century. The biggest reason, scientists say, is probably habitat loss. Feral cats also kill birds – by some estimates more than windows – as do collisions with vehicles and power lines. But the combination of buildings and city lights is deadly.

“By this measure, Chicago may be the deadliest city of all. According to a 2019 study, Chicago endangers more migrating birds than any American city, followed by Dallas and Houston. It’s a matter of lighting, but also geography. Chicago sits on the Lake Michigan shore and within the Mississippi Flyway, a broad path that funnels migrating birds from as far as the Arctic to the Gulf of Mexico, Central America, and beyond.

“Yet if Chicago is one of the worst cities for birds, it’s also one of the best. It has produced a strong response in defense of avian migrants, including a well-established Lights Out program and architects who use bird-friendly designs. It also has some of the most determined advocates for bird safety in the country. Ms. Prince’s group started with just a handful of volunteers two decades ago and has grown to more than 150. These monitors take turns patrolling a square mile or more of downtown Chicago, searching at daybreak for dead or wounded birds. It’s difficult, labor-intensive work, and few cities can match the scale of the effort.

“If a bird is alive, monitors take it to a rehabilitation center in the suburbs. They take the dead ones to Chicago’s Field Museum, where volunteers prepare them for storage in the museum’s collections.  Over the years, the museum has acquired more than 100,000 birds this way. Songbirds, especially warblers and sparrows, are the most common, but bird kills encompass as many as 170 species.

“The monitors also work with building managers to reduce collisions. Turning off exterior lighting is a start. The lights of entryways, lobbies, and glassed-in atria also attract birds. Moreover, birds drawn to a city typically spend a day or two there, pausing to rest and feed before continuing their journey. Most collisions happen on the lower floors, during the day. Monitors encourage building managers to dim interior lights, move plants away from windows, and apply speckled film to clear glass so birds can see it.

“Geoffrey Credi was one of the first to embrace this effort. Two decades ago, Mr. Credi, director of operations at Blue Cross Blue Shield Tower in downtown Chicago, attended a symposium about birds and buildings. He was surprised to discover that his building, which overlooks Grant Park, was considered one of the worst in town. He already knew there was a problem. Collision monitors and custodial staff had found birds outside. Mr. Credi threw himself into efforts to make the building safer. He and his staff began to track where birds were hitting. They had speckled film applied to clear-glass entryways. An olive tree in an atrium attracted birds, so Mr. Credi had it moved. …

“The effect of city lights on birds is well established. One of the most dramatic examples involves the 9/11 memorial in New York. The National 9/11 Memorial & Museum’s ‘Tribute in Light’ consists of two columns of light shining into the night, a symbol of the fallen towers. It’s switched on once a year to mark the anniversary.

“Members of NYC Audubon and others were alarmed when it was first turned on in 2002. Videos show hundreds of birds circling and crossing through the light, like insects in a car beam. Radar and ground observation revealed that the number of birds in lower Manhattan increased from around 500 to as many as 15,700. Conservationists reached a compromise with the museum. Monitors would consult radar and watch the sky. When the number of birds in the beams exceeds 1,000 in 20 minutes, the organizers would turn off the lights for 20 minutes.

“ ‘There was an immediate reduction,’ says Dr. Farnsworth. Some years, he says, the lights go off eight times on the tribute night. Other years, when migration is low, they stay on all night.

“Meanwhile, architects are beginning to design buildings that reduce bird collisions. Jeanne Gang, a prominent Chicago architect, is well known for her efforts. Her designs do not eschew glass, but modify it in critical places to discourage collisions. On lower floors, the glass is fritted – printed in the factory with a ceramic pattern that is both durable and visible to birds.

“A simple pattern consists of lots of small dots. But other patterns work, too. Glass on a dormitory complex that Ms. Gang designed for the University of Chicago is imprinted with pale white chevrons, making an aesthetic element out of a safety feature. Elsewhere in the building, decorative steel panels screen the glass. Retractable shades reduce transparency. At glass corners, vertical shields eliminate the see-through effect that is perilous for birds. …

“The world of bird-friendly architecture is evolving rapidly. Glass companies are coming out with more products, including glass imprinted with patterns only visible to humans under ultraviolet light. Birds can see the patterns; people can’t. Architects also are finding new ways to reconcile the competing demands of function, aesthetics, and economics. At the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in New York, architects used fritted glass to reduce sunlight into the building and save on energy bills. The pattern also reduces bird collisions.”

Lots more at the Monitor, here. No firewall, but subscriptions are solicited.

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glassmilkbottles2302d-0

Photo: Evening Standard
According to a UK newspaper, environmentally aware millennials are driving increased demand for milk in glass bottles. Plastic bottles are out.

I’ve been trying to be more thoughtful about cutting down on household items that aren’t good for the environment. But sometimes I’m a little clueless, carrying the recycling to the street on a regular basis and not noticing that all our milk comes in plastic bottles.

The last couple weeks, though, I’ve been buying cardboard bottles of milk. Unfortunately, they are not for sale everywhere and they cost more. That’s why the following story about the new popularity of glass bottles caught my attention. There is no milk delivery where I live, but it’s definitely available where Suzanne lives.

In England, Ella Wills reports at the Evening Standard, “milkmen and milkwomen are making a comeback in London as millennials have started using glass milk bottles in a bid to cut down plastic waste.

“Dairies in the capital told of a ‘phenomenal’ upsurge in interest from younger customers at the start of the year amid growing public upset over plastic waste.

“Both UK-wide company milk&more and east London dairy Parker Dairies have seen increased demand for glass bottles in 2018, citing David Attenborough’s Blue Planet II as the ‘catalyst’ for the new uptake. The firms said younger consumers and families seem willing to pay more for the service in a bid to help the environment. …

“The industry body [Dairy UK] said figures showed doorstep deliveries make up 3 per cent of milk sales in the UK — around 1 million pints per day — and glass milk bottles make up 3 per cent of all milk sales. But depot manager of Parker Dairies Paul Lough said interest of late in glass bottles has been ‘absolutely phenomenal.’

“He said the dairy, which has a fleet of 25 electric milk floats covering all of east London, the city and the West End, has gained 382 new customers since the beginning of the year. Of these new calls, 95 per cent are having milk delivered in glass bottles. …

“And the dairy has attracted a younger clientele, Mr Lough said, meaning the firm has expanded its product line to cater to the new demographic.

“ ‘Without a doubt [they are younger],’ he said. ‘That is why we are trying to change our product list. We do sourdough and honeys. … We sell 250 loaves a week to new customers.’

“Meanwhile, UK company milk&more said it has gained more than 2,500 new customers in [February] — the equivalent of five new milk rounds. And some 90 per cent of these customers across the country are ordering in the iconic glass bottles. …

“Milkman Ian Beardwell has been doing the same round in Wimbledon for Hanworth Dairy for 27 years. He said: ‘Since Blue Planet that has been the catalyst of the revival in glass. I used to do 550 calls before and in four weeks I’ve gained another 35 to 40 calls — 90 per cent glass.’ …

“Patrick Müller, managing director of milk&more, [added that] new customers were aged around 35 years old, coming from young families with a double income. … ‘Customers [said] they enjoy the experience of the glass bottle — the childhood memories — and they want to reduce their plastic wastage.’ ”

More here.

 

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jesse-taylor

Photo: Kelly Howard
At Lincoln City Glass Center, a glassblower melts down objects made of clear glass to keep the studio supplied during a glass shortage — the unintentional consequence of environmental regulations and high demand from large overseas companies.

When I read recently about the closing of a glass-recycling center in Massachusetts, I didn’t have the imagination to consider all the causes or all the consequences.  What I did learn at the time was that beer companies were not using glass bottles as much and were moving to cans. That was all I knew.

Come to find out, thanks to the Law of Unintended Consequences, environmental regulations are having an effect on the amount of glass pellets available for a range of traditional purposes — including the glassblower’s art.

Lori Tobias writes at Oregon ArtsWatch, “On the Oregon Coast, creating a work of glass art is a bucket-list favorite, and there’s plenty of places to make that happen. But recent weeks have stressed some mom-and-pop glassblowing studios to the point of, well, a meltdown. It seems there’s just not enough glass to go around.

“Robin and William Murphy, owners of the Oregon Coast Glassworks in Newport, ran into problems earlier this month when they tried to buy a new supply of ‘cullet’ glass – furnace-ready recycled glass pellets that glassblowers turn into floats, bowls, and other art. There was ‘no glass anywhere available for purchase,’ Robin Murphy said. Nor would there be any until November, they were told. The shortage seems to be the culmination of stricter environmental laws, which led to a cutback in suppliers, compounded most recently by heavy demands on an overseas supplier.

“The Murphys have launched a fundraising raffle – of a glass sea turtle crafted by William – to help finance a new furnace that will melt ‘batch,’ a pelletized powder that is an alternative to cullet. It requires a natural gas furnace or what’s known in the industry as a ‘moly’ (short for molybdenum) furnace – a piece of equipment that generally comes with a price tag ranging from $30,000 to $50,000. The Murphys have a less expensive wire-melt furnace, but it doesn’t get hot enough to melt batch. …

“Oregon Coast Glassworks isn’t the only small shop facing the shortage. The Edge Art Gallery in South Beach is also experiencing it, as is the Lincoln City Glass Center. One of the largest of the dozen or so glassblowers on the central and north Coast with 21 employees, the Glass Center does have a ‘moly’ furnace, capable of melting batch or cullet. Owner and glass artist Kelly Howard prefers to use cullet, but she also has been unable to get any.

“Most glassblowers agree that the problem can be traced to 2016, when the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality and the federal Environmental Protection Agency imposed stricter regulations on glass manufacturers, ultimately prompting the closure of two major suppliers. One was Spectrum, based in Woodinville, Wash., which supplied glass products for 40 years to many Pacific Northwest artists. Bullseye Glass Co. of Portland survived the crack-down, but does not provide the type of glass used by glass blowers.

“With Spectrum gone, glass blowing studios turned to a German manufacturer, Cristalica, which is distributed through Olympic Color Rods, headquartered in Seattle. But this summer, Cristalica failed to keep up with demand, in part because of the heavy use of existing equipment.

“Howard said she heard the German company had a furnace go down a couple of weeks ago ‘and didn’t give anyone a warning. They said there is no more, and what they had was all given to the big companies. All of the rest us didn’t get any.’ ”

More here. Raffle tickets for the sea turtle are available for $50 here or by calling the studio at 541-574-8226. The winner will be chosen Sept. 2. No more than 500 tickets will be sold.

sea-turtle-face

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Photo: Cornell University
Small predators related to jellyfish (Hydroids) and other marine creatures made of glass may be viewed at the Corning Museum of Glass until January 8, 2017.

Visitors to the Boston area are often taken to see the famous glass flowers created by Leopold and Rudolf Blaschka in the late 19th and early 20th centuries and displayed at the Harvard Museum of Natural History in Cambridge. I have taken guests there myself.

But it was news to me that the Blaschkas also created sea creatures in glass. Many of those were acquired by Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y.

According to Wikipedia, the marine specimens came before the flowers.

“Leopold Blaschke was born in Český Dub, Bohemia, to a family which originated from Josefuv Dul (Antoniwald) in the Iser or Izera Mountains, a region known for processing glass, metals and gems. The family had also spent time in the glassblowing industry of Venice.

“Leopold displayed artistic skills as a child, and was apprenticed to a goldsmith and gemcutter. He then joined the family business, which produced glass ornaments and glass eyes. He developed a technique which he termed ‘glass-spinning,’ which permitted the construction of highly precise and detailed works in glass. He also Latinised his family name to ‘Blaschka,’ and began to focus the business on the manufacture of glass eyes.

“In 1853, Leopold was suffering from ill health and was prescribed a sea voyage. He traveled to the United States and back, using the time at sea to study and draw sea animals, primarily invertebrates.’ ” Read how he started making replicas of them at Wikipedia.

The Guardian alerts us to the current exhibition of the Blaschkas’ marine work in upstate New York. “Father and son team Leopold and Rudolf Blaschka created perfect reproductions of invertebrate marine life in glass in their studio in Germany in the 19th century. Cornell University acquired a collection of 570 items in 1885, and a selection of these can be seen at an exhibition at the Corning Museum of Glass. ‘Fragile Legacy: The Marine Invertebrate Glass Models of Leopold and Rudolf Blaschka’ runs until 8 January, 2017.”

Amazing photos here.

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In her comment at my post about artists returning a discarded museum to life, KerryCan wondered if all the old, weird museum collections ended up at the dump. All is not lost if they did, as dumps seem to attract amateur archaeologists with a nose for uncovering treasures.

Eve Kahn wrote recently in the NY Times about collectors who look for terra cotta shards in the Staten Island landfill and poke around promising demolition sites.

“This summer, true shard collectors [led] me into the weedier parts of the Northeast, where slag heaps and demolition debris survive from the long vanished factories that once thrived.

“These particular experts are interested in manufacturers of windowpanes and architectural ornament. They write books and lead tours, but they also pack their homes and workplaces with excavated artifacts from what seems to be a limitless supply. Anyone can follow in their trail and gain an understanding of American ingenuity as well as accumulate booty for gardens and windowsills or even more ambitious art projects.

“You must stay off private property, of course, but I also recommend that you avoid the comical errors that I made on my early expeditions. … I was so bedazzled by glass that I was about to sit down with shards in my front pockets.”

More on Kahn’s scavenging adventures, here. You might also like the blog “Tiles in New York,” here.

Photo: Agaton Strom for The New York Times
Tina Kaasman-Dunn searching for terra cotta shards on Staten Island.

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For architecture buffs everywhere, an article on a collaboration between Hariri Pontarini Architects and Gartner Steel and Glass that has led to an unusual place of worship in South America.

Lisa Rochon writes in Toronto’s Globe and Mail that starting last September “at the Gartner Steel and Glass testing facility in Bavaria, Germany, translucent panels of cast glass [were] mocked up. Artisans at Toronto’s Jeff Goodman Studio, working in close collaboration with Toronto’s Hariri Pontarini Architects, produced the thick, milky glass for a Baha’i temple on the edge of metropolitan Santiago, Chile.

“The protective embrace of the domed temple, to be defined by nine petals (or veils), will be fabricated of myriad shapes in cast glass, with 25 per cent of them noticeably curved. Luminous and white is what design lead Siamak Hariri had in mind; seen up close, they look like streams of milk frozen in place.

“It took years of testing and the rejection of hundreds of samples at the acclaimed Goodman Studio (which typically makes chandeliers or small-scale screens of glass) to arrive at the 32-millimetre-thick cast glass with matte finish. ‘That the design is finally being mocked up in Germany represents a major milestone,’ says Hariri. …

“The project is unique in the world, says Gartner’s managing director, Armin Franke, from his office in Germany. Hariri’s exacting specifications have presented many challenges. For one thing, the architects want only the most minimal silicon joints between the heavy cast-glass panels. The panels – made from countless glass rods laid on a sheet and baked at Goodman Studio – are stronger than stone, according to tests, to satisfy a Baha’i requirement that the building endure for 400 years, and to survive one of the most active earthquake zones in the world.”

I love how many players around the world are collaborating on the innovations behind this project.

Lots more on the project here and at the Baha’i website, here.

Photograph: Hariri Pontarini Architects. A computer-generated rendition of the Baha’i House of Worship under construction in Santiago, Chile.

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