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The glass triangles of the National Aquarium’s roofline are an iconic part of the Baltimore skyline, but can pose a challenge to migrating birds. As part of our ongoing work with the National Aquarium, we recently engaged in a bird strike prevention study. This study grew into a collaboration between our firm’s graphic design and landscape architecture studios, producing an interdisciplinary design solution that serves two purposes: guiding birds away from the glass without detracting from its distinctive form, and adding a much-needed branded presence in a key area.

Birds sometimes perceive clear surfaces as open space that is safe for flight, or want to reach vegetation that is inside structures but still visible externally. At other times, they confuse reflections of trees in the glass for the real thing and fly into reflective surfaces.

To prevent these outcomes, our team worked closely with a staff of experts at the National Aquarium to design a dot pattern that would be digitally printed on optically clear vinyl film. A 2×4-inch pattern is a standard recommended by the American Bird Conservancy. Birds instinctively know how to fit into tight spaces; they can easily navigate through tree canopies. But they also have a sense where they won’t fit, and thus the tight pattern of the frit guides them away from clear or reflective surfaces and prevents strikes from occurring. Our team took this 2×4-inch recommendation and created a customized branded solution.

This large graphic application, in which the Aquarium’s wordmark appears knocked out of a translucent background, doubles as signage and bird strike prevention. Understanding that many of the bird strikes occur closer to tree canopy height, our team incorporated an additional dot pattern on the back side of the glass closer to the ground for added effectiveness. The incorporation of an interpretive panel within the graphic application highlights the purpose of the design to visitors.

Altogether, the design enhances the architecture and identity of the Aquarium, while providing beneficial changes to protect migrating and native birds. Now the Aquarium is a little more welcoming for everyone – earthbound human visitors and winged animals alike.