Thomas Burke Takes Bird’s-Eye View of Architecture

When people ask our opinion on birdhouses, we tend to point them to Kelly Lamb‘s geodesic delight, a dangling white Fullerdome designed for wrens, finches, and mod-leaning chickadees. But what if your backyard attracts more traditionally minded fowl: robins with a taste for gabled rooves or red-winged blackbirds that break for trompe l’oeil stone? Go straight to Thomas F. Burke, designer and builder of “masterpiece birdhomes.” From his basement workshop in Wilmington, Delaware, Burke creates pole-mounted replicas of historic buildings and clients’ houses that are for the birds. Having grown up in the Pennsylvania town of Chadds Ford, he has carved out a further niche with a series of birdhouses inspired by the work of Andrew Wyeth, including a bird-scaled version of the eerie clapboard dwelling in the background of Wyeth’s famous “Christina’s World.” Not one to be pigeonholed, Burke is at work on more avant-garde structures. “I’m building a birdhouse inspired by Santiago Calatrava‘s 80 South Street Tower project for Manhattan,” he says in the June “Country Comfort” issue of Architectural Digest, which features ten examples of his work (in a story that is not available online). “It will stand about eight feet tall and be mounted on a thin metal rod twelve feet high.”