Commentary / 3rd Quarter 2023


by Nipun Prabhakar

September 20, 2023

The act of providing shelter to birds is one such instance where religion and tradition play a role in developing human-animal relationships. Such initiatives have been ingrained in various societies for centuries, showcasing the enduring relationship between humans and birds.

Communities worldwide, particularly in South Asia and the Middle East, have embraced the idea of providing shelter for birds, particularly pigeons, as a religious service to these feathered creatures. In Kutch, India, communities construct large birdhouses and collect funds to support their upkeep and nourishment. Sometimes these birdhouses also have inbuilt water tubs for cows, bulls, stray dogs and cats to drink.

The Ottoman architecture boasts numerous instances where miniature buildings2 were purposefully created on the façades of mosques for pigeons and doves, showcasing a cultural appreciation for the well-being of these birds.

RELATED: Designing for Non-humans as an Act of Service

Similarly, purple martin birdhouses are a famous example of designing for birds in the USA. These initiatives exemplify the deep-rooted respect and care communities hold for the avian species, highlighting the harmonious coexistence between humans and birds in various parts of the world.

Studio Advaita in Mumbai often uses features to include birds in buildings. Rasika from the studio shared how they use clay pots for birds to stay. She added, “These clay pots are inserted above 7 feet to be protected from human beings at various levels at the time of brick wall construction. While inserting the pot, we make sure the pot is slightly tilted in a downward direction to protect it from rain. We take one brick out closer to the pot, which acts as a landing space for birds before they enter their nest (pot). As per our last 10 years of experience, these nests get occupied before the client occupies the building”.

Such initiatives demonstrate how contemporary architecture can integrate the needs of non-human inhabitants seamlessly, fostering coexistence and promoting biodiversity.

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Nipun Prabhakar is an independent documentary photographer and architect based in India. He works on long-term projects dealing with intersections of ideas, artifacts, the built environment and folklore. His background as an architect has deeply impacted his sense of space in situations that call for a contextual response to culture and geography. His work has been supported by the Aga Khan Trust for Culture, AKDC at MIT, among others. He is a recipient of the Berkeley Essay Prize 2014 and was Cornell University’s South Asian Fellow 2019-20.

Read more stories from FuturArc 3Q 2023 Green Awards: Cross-Generational Architecture!



1 Dobraszczyk, Paul. Animal Architecture: Beasts, Buildings and Us. Reaktion Books, 2023.
2 Christiane Gruber. ‘Like Hearts of Birds: Ottoman Avian Microarchitecture in the Eighteenth Century’. Journal18: A Journal of Eighteenth-Century Art and Culture, Apr. 2021,
3 Building Collisions Kill Hundreds of Millions of Birds per Year | Audubon. 30 Jan. 2018,
4 ‘First in Country: A Flyover for Animals on Mumbai-Nagpur Highway’. The Times of India, 23 Feb. 2022. The Economic Times – The Times of India,
5 Prabhakar, Nipun. ‘Documenting India’s Distinctive Birdhouses’. The New York Times, 27 June 2022.,

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