by Lina Grigaitis
At my previous firm, I worked on a massive government-funded project until the funding for the project was suddenly frozen and my position eliminated overnight. Fortunately, the timing was good since I was about to get married and planning to start a family. Around this time, I began to search within myself for an outlet in which to satisfy my artistic impulses and one that did not require undue commitments of time. The answer I arrived at came as sudden inspiration: I could design and build birdhouses. Here was a project that could be operated on small scale and completed piecemeal as bits of spare time presented themselves. This was to be my creative outlet—an opportunity to make something physical and concrete starting from an idea developed in my mind.
These days, as the mother of three young children, I am always on the lookout for new opportunities to express myself creatively in spite of a hectic parenting schedule. To this end, I recently decided to revisit my birdhouse project from ten years ago to see in what new directions I could steer it. I quickly discovered what a joy it was to include my six-year old daughter, Adriana, in the design and build phases of each project: I design the shape and she decides the color scheme. It is a wonderful partnership and time that the two of us truly cherish. We set out to bring a little fun and happiness into people’s lives through our art. The whimsical designs appeal particularly to people with a sense of humor and adventure, and we enjoy the looks of awe and surprise on their faces when viewing our birdhouses for the first time. The striking visual impact of each birdhouse stands out in the viewer’s mind as he or she struggles to reconcile our designs with conventional notions of a birdhouse.
The deep red birdhouse is called “AHA!” and symbolizes to me the birth of a great idea, the “Aha!” moment. My daughter suggested that the design incorporate glitter. I thought this was a great idea and so “shimmering” has become a part of the design. The vertical birdhouse, “Wild Thing,” was named by my daughter in homage to the classic children’s book by Maurice Sendak. The pink birdhouse, “Sparkles,” is a whimsical study of shape and color.
Once again, my head is filled with concepts for new birdhouse designs. I memorialize my ideas on paper and build them as time allows. As for the future, I always remain open to new opportunities and challenges and I look forward to finding new directions for the birdhouse project in collaboration with my talented young assistant and daughter, Adriana.
Lina Grigaitis is President of her eponymous architecture firm and President of the non-profit organization Chicago Women in Architecture. She also designs birdhouses with her daughter Adriana.
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