Saturday, September 6, 2008

Maya Lin's Confluence Project: The Bird Blind

Near Troutdale Oregon is the Bird Blind. It is set in a large tract of land that belongs to the Department of Forestry. They have been trying to restore it for many years.

The Confluence Project has placed the Bird Blind at what will be the Confluence of the Sandy River and the Columbia River, once the original delta of the river is restored to what it was in the early 19th century before it was diverted by dams.
Right now, it is near the river, but not on it.

The Bird Blind is the opposite of its name. We stand inside of it and we cannot see out- the slats are too close together. What we can see are carefully printed texts based on precise observations by William Clark from 1804, the various names for those species, and whether they have survived or are endangered, a species of concern or entirely extinct. The Lewis and Clark expedition were astonished by the wealth of plants that they saw that they didn't even know.

In a structure that feels almost like a cage with an open door, the intensity of being surrounded by this marking of loss and threatened loss as a result of our actions on the land is extraordinary. One minute you are walking in a landscape that is used mainly by off leash dog walkers and the next you are inside of a major work of art.

In comparison to the Vietnam Memorial instead of descent, there is ascent. Instead of an open wedge there is an semi enclosed circle. Instead of a monument to humans, there is a tribute to lost species and birds, as well as a marking of survival.

The structure is built of black locust, sustainably harvested. Black locust is a long lasting wood that is itself an invasive species. Maya Lin ( she is above inspecting the not quite finished project) spoke of this site as representing the pure goal of the Confluence from the perspective of restoration and witness. In five to ten years, as the Sandy River finds its natural course, the trees will cover it. The project also collaborated with near by schools in Troutdale. Native Americans organized workshops that encouraged children to think about the same principles as the Confluence Project, losses and survivals since Lewis and Clark.
Six schools created a Legacy Pathway that included drawings and poetryby the students.

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