To the editor:

The writer of a recent letter to the Herald claims that migratory birds will die crashing into the one-hundred-eighty-foot-tall main building of the Obama Center. The writer also points out that the building lacks windows — not quite true. Migratory birds navigate using signals from a clear sky. An overcast sky confuses birds, who instinctively seek out structures that most closely represent a clear sky. Large buildings with expanses of reflective glass attract birds, who are severely injured or killed by collisions with this dangerous, man-made surface. Who cannot be moved by the dozens of tiny lifeless bodies clustered at the base of shiny skyscrapers?

Talented, savvy architects, such as Chicago’s own Jeanne Gang, are cognizant of the dangers to birds posed by skyscrapers. Buildings designed by Studio Gang, for example, have offset windows, as are the windows of City Hyde Park at 51st Street and Lake Park Avenue. Solstice in the Park, on East 56th Street at Cornell Avenue and also designed by Studio Gang, has tinted windows placed beneath distinctive overhangs. Instead of light reflecting at right angles, the uniquely tilted windows reflect light downward, thus deterring tiny migrants.

In sum, the tiny windows of the magnificent Obama Center tower will attract very few birds, all of which will be quite safe as they fly through this uniquely beautiful park.  

Frances S. Vandervoort

(4) comments


If this is largely stone and is truly a bird hazard of significance, then one wonders how birds avoid other solid objects like cliff faces. This assertion sounds specious.

However, angling downward of any large expanses of mirrored windows sounds like a no-brainer.

And of course, the OPC should be sited in a place for all Chicagoans, such as where the Star Wars Museum was proposed.

Off to Morries!

Ross Petersen

First off, the building is 235 feet tall. It was increased to that height from the original 180 feet. Second point is - this building is located directly in a migratory flyway. Please note that several birding groups, among them the Chicago Bird Collision Monitors group, have expressed their opposition. There are studies, by US Fish and Wildlife Service, who have documented these flyways utilizing doppler radar - we know there is a migratory flyway, there. Let's face it - this is a largely windowless building. It will loom large, directly up against the Park's nature area. It is mostly covered in stone, with the windows, such as they are, behind this stone.

Make no mistake, this is a twenty three story building. 800 to 1,000 trees will be removed, cut down, to make room for the OPC and road widening projects, throughout the Park. Why do you suggest this location, when there are vacant sites throughout the South side?

Between this tower, this campus, the road widening projects, what you are suggesting is the re-design of Jackson Park.

I think it's beautiful, the way it is.

Ross Petersen

Now, I went into the archives, pulled up notes from a Jackson Park Advisory Council meeting attended by Mr. Willard, Mr Stotz, Ornithologists from the Field Museum. They reported on research indicating most migration takes place at Night. This is why there are dead birds at the base of Many buildings in the Mornings. Further, there is some evidence to suggest they might use stars for navigation. This Two Hundred Thirty Five foot tall building will be a tower of collisions. The location turns its back on the lakefront, it is mostly opaque. We know the lakefront, Jackson Park especially, to be 'important bird habitat'. How you, a science teacher, can ignore this, is beyond me.

Ross Petersen

I think this building will be a tower of collisions, as it's located directly inside a known migratory flyway. The author of this letter seems to disagree. I'd suggest you invite one of the Field Museum's ornithologists back, to the Jackson Park Advisory Council, to give you some input on this. I'd also suggest you invite someone from the Chicago Bird Collision Monitors to do a presentation on the importance of the Lakefront, and the Hazards posed by building, there. The author of this letter would do well to consult with US Fish and Wildlife Service doppler radar studies, that clearly show these migrations. The environmental impact of this building will be horrendous.

Why Not move it to a less sensitive, Non-Park location?

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