B is for Bird Nest

| February 27, 2014
1. A search on Google for “bird nest” (as of 2/23/14) will provide the following results: 1. Edible bird’s nest, 2. Beijing National Stadium, 3. Bird’s nest. All three are Wikipedia pages.
2. Edible bird’s nests are a delicacy popular in Asia. They are made from the saliva of swiftlets. The nests are used most often to make bird’s nest soup. Bird’s nests can cost up to $2500 per kilogram.
3. The nest, a structure necessary for the hatching of the swiftlet eggs, has now been adopted as an elite food item. The bird’s themselves are simply making the structure out of instinct, out of habit. A market is created out of this habit.
4. The Beijing National Stadium was built for the 2008 Summer Olympics. The stadium’s design uses steel criss-crossed beams which give the building the look of a bird nest. The use of nature-built structures in order to inform design is a curious one, at once admirable and unfortunate. Admirable because there is a recognition that nature can create designs as structurally sound and aesthetically beautiful as any human hand. Unfortunate because of man-made structures’ (such as this one) impact on the natural world. Our desire to construct things inspired by nature can lead to the destruction of the nature the buildings emulate.
5. Beijing National Stadium now sits mostly empty and unused, failing to attract events to fill its capacity.
6. The bird nest (one created by birds) is an item of utility for the maker. The aesthetic value of the nest is placed by us. A bird will not make a choice to put a certain twig in a certain place because it “looks better there.” Or at least I don’t think it will. The bird’s choices are governed by their utility. How will this structure hold in a tree? How will it hold together? These questions of utility give rise to beauty, just not to the bird.
7. When I was eight years old, I found a robin’s nest in a tree in my grandma’s backyard. The tree was a Japanese Maple and had dark red leaves and dark bark. The nest was dark as well. The eggs inside the nest were not.