Lim Zhi Ning Cheryl
‘Coo’ d’état: Negotiating the Occupation of the Building Facade

Thesis Supervisor: A/P Ong Ker Shing

There has been much research on ecologically-responsible building design. In Forman’s (1996) seminal work on Landscape Ecology Principles, the ecologists study how fauna navigate the environment, and how designers can accommodate these patterns.


But in recent years, new conversations have emerged. Corlett (2010) highlights equatorial cities (like Singapore) as a fertile ground for novel ecosystems – non-native species that have moved in to make cities their home. My position is much like Corlett’s: to design ecologically, it really is key

to acknowledge “what is there, rather than pick and choose among the species on the basis of their origins”.


Forman’s ecological principles are helpful when designing for native ecology. But we’ll have to adapt them when considering non-native dwellers: those like pigeons, who would be impacted less by urban softscape, more by the buildings in the city. So, by coupling learnings from Forman and Corlett with some further research, we could question how we design ecologically-responsible buildings in equatorial cities. 

Thesis research

I studied the ergonomics of pigeons, life cycles and behavioural patterns, and the uneven value system societies possess toward different bird species. Thereafter, I translated these needs into a set of spatial guidelines for design.

Orchestrating the thesis

This thesis proposes a façade system suited to multi-party use, investigates its implications on boundaries and interaction, and its potential as a medium for ecological response.


To explore the role of the façade, there are conditions that I need to set up. This is why many human programs – which do not necessarily need to occur there – are placed at the façade of the apartment unit. By doing so, we create spatial opportunities for both man and pigeon to utilise and engage with the building skin, resulting in various spatial and boundary configurations.


To a lesser extent, pigeon life cycles determined spatial organisation. Continuity across floors is designed into vertical cores for the nesting and dying spaces, so as to rid of by-products and allow these cycles to renew themselves. Yet, creating a closed loop within a single unit wasn’t a priority– a continuous path from where a squab is born to where an adult dies isn’t necessary when pigeons can easily fly. Overall, quality of space required by human-bird programs primarily drove spatial organisation.

The grid

Spacing between perches determine where birds can access. For instance, the grid carves out a space for humans on the upper level of the duplex. The vertical spacing is just enough for natural ventilation, yet far too narrow for pigeons to enter.


At the grid, human needs for ventilation and light influence where pigeons are allowed to access. Both groups can be accommodated in the façade simultaneously, providing both with spaces of rest.

The stairwell

Pigeons are brought deeper into the façade. Winder stairs are placed around a highly secure and narrow vertical core, housing pigeon dying spaces. The human gaze is shielded both from the inner core and the outward-facing nesting spaces, as is that of the pigeon.


The pigeons’ need for privacy is compatible with the nature of human staircases. The spatial opportunities abovehead, underfoot and adjacent can be filled by birds, hence wrapping pigeon programs around a transition space for humans.

The living spaces

The bay window’s view on the lower floor is kept unobstructed and pigeon-free. On the upper floor, pigeon copulation spaces are niches that are tucked under the windows. Both floors play with façade depths to achieve this.


Once again, a peeling-away of the façade carves out gathering spaces for pigeons, while forming functional elements that humans can use as furniture.

A single unit
A confluence of social spaces
A clear separation between man and bird
A pairing of private programs

This thesis positions the façade as a robust means for urban ecological response. The overall spatial organisation proves that programming spaces for the pigeon experience can still result in a product that works for humans too.

Apart from working with specific façade elements and varying its depth, it definitely works to think of the facade as a living space with thickness and volume to it, rather than a skin.


In doing so, we witness how human and pigeon demands push, pull, and converge in spatial opportunities on both sides of – even within – the façade itself.