Steel Shots: Small Space, Big Imagination

The Gourd structure’s organic form inspires creativity and imagination at the San Antonio Botanical Gardens. (Photo: Patrick Winn)

The Gourd is part art installation, part human-sized birdhouse.

Built for the San Antonio Botanical Gardens, it seeks to uphold the gardens’ mission to inspire people to connect with the plant world and understand the importance of plants in our lives.

Rather than pursuing a form that resembles a small human house - as is typically seen in most birdhouses (human-scale or otherwise) - the design team chose a form inspired by the bottle gourd, first used in its hollowed-out form by Native Americans to attract Purple Martins as a nesting spot. The organic form, designed by Overland Partners Architects and Datum Engineers, inspires creativity and imagination while pushing the limits of digital design and fabrication.

The Gourd is built out of 70 plates of 12-gauge weathering steel wrapped around a robin’s egg blue internal octahedral structure and perforated with over 1,000 Ball Mason jars. The jars illuminate the interior space while providing a visible connection to the outside world.

For more about the Gourd and other fun projects showcasing the cool use of steel, see this year’s “Cool List” in the August issue of Modern Steel. View even more photos of these projects at

(Photo at right: Scott Adams)