Iconic buildings from movies and architecture recreated as birdhouses

Artist and architect Jason Sargenti has recreated a series of iconic buildings, both real and fictional, as birdhouses, and his work is about to go on show in Chicago. We find out what inspired the project and the thinking behind it.

The Manhattan Birdhouse by Jason Sargenti.

The Manhattan Birdhouse by Jason Sargenti. "This was inspired by Philip Johnson's AT&T building in NYC," says Jason. All photography courtesy of the artist and PHX Gallery, Chicago

Beautiful buildings inspire us, positively impact our mental and emotional well-being, contribute to the cultural identity of a society and can become iconic symbols that represent a region or a community. But some of us city-dwellers walk past them so often that they start to become invisible, and we start to take them for granted.

That's why The Architect's Birdhouses, a fun exhibition by artist and architect Jason Sargenti at PHX Gallery, really hits home for us. As Funko toys do with pop culture characters, these delightful creations distil famous buildings (some real, some from movies) down to their bare essentials, reminding us just what we like about them so much.

The Patrick Birdhouse by Jason Sargenti.

The Patrick Birdhouse by Jason Sargenti. "This was influenced by the hybrid cool of Hans Hollein, Austrian Travel Agency Headquarters, and the painter Nagel's Deco revival styling," says Jason. "The house is all about the shadows that fall from the trees"

The Temperance Birdhouse by Jason Sargenti.

The Temperance Birdhouse by Jason Sargenti. "This was inspired by FAC51 an uncredited flyer from the mythical dance club, the Hacienda, in Manchester, UK," says Jason

The Vermonter Birdhouse by Jason Sargenti.

The Vermonter Birdhouse by Jason Sargenti. ""As the cultural epicenter of my region (NYC) hemorrhage its moneyed populace, they venture north to gobble up real estate and bend towns to their will," says Jason. "As out of place and oblivious as Tim Burton's cast of exurbs from Beetlejuice."

Each of the eight birdhouses is a totemic embodiment of architecture, design, or pop culture icons, including the 1989 comedy movie Beetlejuice, Philip Johnson's AT&T building, Hans Hollein's brass palm trees, and Memphis's Flamingo side-table. There's even one inspired by the legendary Manchester nightclub The Hacienda!

Lockdown Project

Interestingly, Jason created these birdhouses during the lockdown in 2020 using only materials available to him at the time. As the old saying goes, 'necessity is the mother of invention', which certainly was in this case.

"The motivation for making these birdhouses came from a desire to provide some contrast in my surroundings," the artist explains. "Initially, I would purchase ugly birdhouses and renovate them. My plan included distributing them to open fields around my rural Upstate New York community to provide homes for songbirds."

The Flamingo Birdhouse by Jason Sargenti.

The Flamingo Birdhouse by Jason Sargenti. "This was inspired by the Flamingo side-table by Michele de Lucchi for Memphis 1984," says Jason. "The influence of the Memphis and Studio Alchimia are touchstone for me. Movements misunderstood, hated, incomprehensible, to most my peers, cause of consternation, passion and debate on what is supposed to be good taste. Still so pregnant with life and vibrancy, yet aloof to humans in 2020. Less original, more of a hommage"

The Atlanta Birdhouse by Jason Sargenti.

The Atlanta Birdhouse by Jason Sargenti. "This was inspired by the opulence of the Galleria Mall in Georgia 1987," says Jason

The Laura Birdhouse by Jason Sargenti.

The Laura Birdhouse by Jason Sargenti. "This was inspired by the sophisticated lady PI in charge of Remington Steele Agency," says Jason.

The Damrack Birdhouse by Jason Sargenti.

The Damrack Birdhouse by Jason Sargenti. "This was a msical temple to song birds," says Jason

Eventually, though, the locals stole or used his renovated birdhouses as target practice. "The proceeding iterations, made during quarantine, were less for distribution to a hostile community and more to maintain my own sanity," he explains. "The resulting constructions are fantasies, speculations and inspiration that continue a discourse in speculative design."

Creative Journey

Jason is a New York State-licensed architect with a body of built work in the private and public sector, an experienced university educator, and an expert generalist with skills in project management, building technology, historic masonry restoration, site planning, and sustainable design. He holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from The New York State College of Ceramics at Alfred University and a Master of Architecture from Rhode Island School of Design.

His initial entry into the creative world, though, was a little unusual. "My formative years were split between New York City and Florida in the 1980s and 1990s," he recalls. On weekends during the school year, my mother would drag me around South Florida, documenting the beach homes of money launderers and narcotics importers for a popular design magazine.

"During the summer, I would follow my cooler older brother around SoHo as he delivered 'fashion' to celebrity photo shoots. Like many who create things, I attended design school, where I was told my colourful creations were unrelatable and just plain terrible. My faculty was unwilling or unable to provide context for what interested me.

"It was only in the last several years that I began to piece together the historical context that exerted so much influence over me, that which people label generically as the '80s. My perspective is less a longing for the return to the age of decadence and more a feeling that there is fertile ground to mine for ideation."

The Architect's Birdhouses is on view by appointment until 13 September at the PHX Gallery in Chicago, USA.


Get the best of Creative Boom delivered to your inbox weekly