Everyone needs a place to live, even birds. The city can be especially tough in that regard — trees can be scarce, and the bright lights and big buildings don't make the most hospitable avian environment.

But a London-based designed studio has come up with a colorful solution. Fieldwork Facility's simple-to-assemble birdhouses attach easily to lamp posts and street signs. The goal is to encourage birds to nest in city areas, but it's also to "highlight nature's place in our urban fabric," according to the company's website. (The bright bird homes are hard to miss.)

"As a designer I'm incredibly invested in cities, public spaces and placemaking. I’m at home in the city, although I actually grew up in the countryside and have over the years started noticing elements missing from cities that I believe make neighborhoods nicer places to live and work, elements that are all around in the countryside," says designer Robin Howie, who created the Nest Project.

As much as they provide temporary habitat, the birdhouses are also meant to point out the lack of nature in an urban environment. "What I’m proud of with The Nest Project is that they act as a home for birds in the urban realm but also they’re urban interventions for people, signaling nature’s place in the urban fabric."

nest project birdhouses sitting on a shelfThe birdhouses start their lives indoors as pencil sharpeners. (Photo: Fieldwork Facility)

Before the birdhouses can be attached to poles or fences or other city structures, they have to spend some time in a human home, school or office. The birdhouse perch is actually a pencil and sharpener. The hope is that people will spend a week or so writing or drawing with the pencil and collecting the pencil shavings in the bottom of the birdhouse. The shavings will help make the nest a welcoming home when birds eventually move in.

Howie had originally designed the birdhouses years ago, but they were just pencil sharpeners that sat on a desk. Then he realized he could reverse-engineer his original project.

"It could be a real medium to engage people in helping build a real nest for real birds in their own neighborhoods," he says. "The idea developed that a school, office or home could work in pencil for just a week, when participants sharpen their pencils they are pre-populating a nest with cozy pencil shaving for a future tenant."

nest project birdhouse tweeting updates of activity in the birdhouseCorporate sponsors can get photo updates of what's happening inside their birdhouses. (Photo: Fieldwork Facility)

The nests are still in a prototype stage. Howie hopes to seek crowdfunding and launch a beta version for the next nesting season in spring. He hopes to offer special birdhouses to corporate supporters of the Nest Project. The group will tweet photos of periodic activity inside the nests.

The houses come with an instruction booklet with details about how to hang them correctly, as well as how to choose the right location and how to work with city officials to get permission to hang them.

"Naturally some local authorities won’t support the appropriation of public space in this manner, and we provide instructions to help place the nests responsibly," says Howie. "When appropriate we fully support seeking permission for nest locations from the relevant owner, as it’s crucial nests aren’t disturbed during nesting season!"

For information about the birdhouses and when they're be available, visit the Nest Project.

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Mary Jo DiLonardo covers a wide range of topics focused on nature, health, science and anything that helps make the world a better place.

Pop-up birdhouses delight both birds and humans
Our feathered friends get a colorful housing option, and we get a nudge from nature.