Nov 022014

Bird House by Claude Nicolas Ledoux

(click any picture for full-size view)

10 years ago, Nicolas and I built a swiss-chalet style bird house:

Swiss chalet bird house

A decade of rain and snow had taken their toll, so this summer we decided to build a new one.

Some years back we visited the Royal Saltworks at Arc-et-Senans and were so bowled-over by Claude Nicolas Ledoux’s architecture that we bought the book of his plans and Nicolas came up with the idea of using one of his designs. We settled for a simple Abreuvoir et Lavoir (trough and washing-room):

Abreuvoir et Lavoir

The full-sized building was about 9.7 toises wide, which is just under 19 metres. Our first attempt was scaling 25:1 but we were constrained by the beech planks we wanted to use that were 18mm thick, which would have made the walls too thin, so we finally decided on 29:1. We imported the image into Visio and created a custom scale so that the dimensioning shapes would show the measurements directly in the final units:
Abreuvoir et Lavoir

We respected the design as faithfully as possible, the only change being to remove the four columns at the front, as we felt that the birds would shy away if they were too closed in.

It quickly became clear that the sculpted walls and columns were going to be tricky to execute, so we created a 3D model:
Shaded 3D

which helped greatly to plan the grouting:

Grouting Wireframe

Experience had taught us that our worst enemy was water, so we assembled entirely with glue and dowels. For easy maintenance, the floor has aluminium posts sealed with epoxy resin that the house drops onto:
05 Bird House
and the walls are slightly raised from the floor to prevent water lying under them.

The floor and roof were tar-painted and covered with roofing felt. The feeders are in aluminium:
04 Bird House

The roof slots over the walls, with latches to prevent it from lifting in the wind:
06 Bird House

and the entire assembly sits atop a 2-metre post:

02 Bird House