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Graduate Architecture Student Wins Local AIA Chapter's Inaugural "Animal House Competition"

By Madelyn McClellan

Published June 3, 2014

Jesse Pringle (MArch ‘14) was recently awarded first place in a state-wide design competition for his proposal of a barn owl shelter that addresses the species’ loss of habitat and depleted feeding grounds and provides for co-habitation with humans.

Established by the Buffalo/Western New York chapter of the American Institute of Architects and its Buffalo Emerging Professionals group, the inaugural Animal House Competition invited emerging professionals from across New York State to design a shelter that addresses the spatial and habitat requirements of any domesticated animal in a “fresh and appealing” way. Selection criteria included livability, clarity, constructability, and representation. Jury members included local practitioners, as well as representatives of the Buffalo Humane Society, which received proceeds from the competition.

Jesse Pringle (MArch ‘14) was recently awarded first place in the state-wide Animal House Competition for his design of a barn owl shelter.

Jesse Pringle (MArch ‘14) was recently awarded first place in the state-wide Animal House Competition for his design of a barn owl shelter.

Through his design of “Owl Feeders,” a three-layer habitat for owls, humans and mice (the owl’s primary food source), Pringle references the symbiotic and mutualistic relationships essential to the barn owl’s survival. Typically, in exchange for shelter within a barn, the “domesticated” barn owl would limit the rodent population on farms. However, due to changing agricultural practices, impenetrable and mechanized barns have reduced accessible barn owl shelter considerably. Meanwhile, pesticide use has diminished or poisoned the rodent population on farms.

Pringle’s proposal attempts to reinstate these amenities once provided by manmade shelters. Owl Feeders features a raised owl roost where the barn owl can nest and find shelter. The habitat’s second tier contains a greenhouse and vertical garden, with the lowest tier serving as shelter for mice.

Pringle incorporates three ecological systems throughout the Owl Feeders’ three tiers.  A vertical garden, primarily housed in the greenhouse, provides a location for people to cultivate food. A rat-proof compost bin turns garden waste into nutrient-rich soil for future plantings while serving as a food source for the mice below. A secondary ecological system at play is the water system, as the structure collects and funnels rainwater through the vertical garden to provide irrigation. The tertiary system is a vertical thermal flow from the greenhouse to the owl roost.  As the greenhouse collects heat, a solar chimney allows the heat to rise into the owl roost. 

In accordance to the Barn Owl Trust guidelines, Pringle designed the roost to anticipate owl behavior: perches grant the adult owls a vantage point to hunt their prey; the building form anticipates prevailing winds and protects the barn owls and their young in harsh weather; and a raised entrance to the roost prevents owlets from leaving the roost too early.

Jesse Pringle studied within the Ecological Practices Research Group at the Buffalo School and was recently accepted into the Master of Landscape Architecture program at Cornell University.