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Competition: Pollinator House, Buffalo

An international competition is being held for a series of innovative structures to house pollinating creatures in Buffalo, New York (Deadline: 15 May)

The competition – organised by Gardens Buffalo Niagara and Buffalo Architecture Foundation (BAF) – invites architects, designers, gardeners, sculptors, carpenters and students to create ‘functional, contemporary’ homes for pollen-spreading animals such as bees, butterflies and moths.

Entries to the contest – held to mark the 25th anniversary of the local Garden Walk Buffalo festival – should harness recycled materials and must be no larger than 0.3m³ in size. Submitted pollinator houses will be exhibited throughout the city before being auctioned to raise money for charitable program in the autumn.

Buffalo, New York

Buffalo, New York

Source: Image by Pete716

Buffalo, New York

According to the brief: ‘The spirit of the competition seeks to bring awareness to the wide array of pollinators in Western New York. Each entry should address the needs of its target animal while simultaneously addressing the basic demands of an outdoor enclosure.

‘A commercially available, prefabricated pollinator house that has been artistically decorated with high quality illustrations is desirable, but entrants are challenged and encouraged to submit, creative and innovative designs that provide a form-defying convention.’

Located on the east coast of Lake Erie just south of the world famous Niagara Falls, Buffalo is the second largest city in New York and is home to more than 250,000 residents.

Like many cities across the developed world, Buffalo has witnessed a drop in pollinator numbers due to the heavy use of pesticides, invasive species, diseases, parasites, and loss of habitat.

Last autumn, the Western New York Land Conservancy launched a separate international ideas contest to rethink a disused 2.4km stretch of railway in Buffalo. The contest received close to 200 entries and winners are due to be announced this spring.

A pollinator house

A pollinator house

A pollinator house

The Pollinator House competition is being held to mark the 25th anniversary of the Garden Walk festival which is held every July in Buffalo and sees visitors guide themselves through more than 400 landscaped urban gardens in the Niagara area.

Proposals are expected to be ‘creative and visually-pleasing’ while providing a suitable space for a pollinating creature to live and raise their young. Applications are free and teams may submit as many entries as they wish.

Judges from the Garden Buffalo Niagara project and Buffalo Architecture Foundation will select the best designs in three categories covering best overall entry, most likely to attract a pollinator, and the best student entry.

The overall winners will be announced in the late summer or autumn when an awards ceremony and the auction will also be held.

How to apply


The deadline for submissions is 15 May

Contact details

Buffalo Architecture Foundation
617 Main Street
Suite 401
NY 14203


View the competition website for more information

Q&A with Courtney Creenan-Chorley

The president of BAF discusses her ambitions for the competition

Why are your holding an international design build contest for new pollinator houses?

After the success of our 2017 Little Free Library Design Competition, BAF wished to maintain the momentum and recognition we had gained. Simultaneously, our partner organization, Gardens Buffalo Niagara was looking for a creative way to celebrate their 25th Anniversary. Together we conceived of a design-build competition which addressed both organization’s missions and would contribute purposeful art pieces throughout the gardens of Buffalo. Unlike the Little Free Library competition, the Pollinator House competition application process only has a single stage allowing interested parties to simply submit their completed work. Additionally, the houses are limited in size to a maximum 12” cube and can be sent by package post. We are hoping to get even more international participation than we received for our first competition; this will be an opportunity for people all over the world to make a contribution to a serious ecologic crisis that will affect all life on our planet.

A pollinator house

A pollinator house

A pollinator house

What is your vision for the new pollinator houses?

We expect our participants to understand the basic needs of the animals their submission is meant to house, for example, bats will not live in a bird house and certain bees like to burrow; the submissions must be functional, but also beautiful. The intention is to collect all the submissions into a travelling display so that as many people have a chance to see them as possible. Then, at the end of the summer, all the houses will be auctioned off to private owners who will incorporate them into their gardens. The proceeds of the auction will be split between Gardens Buffalo Niagara and BAF (both not-for-profit organizations) to fund our programs. The more creative and unusual the submission, the more desirable we feel people will find them and therefore the more valuable. Sustainability is a big part of both organizations’ missions, and submissions that recycle, reduce, and reuse will be prized by our judges. Although not guaranteed, if one or more submissions are truly special, we may reach out to the builder to discuss mass production for resale beyond Western New York.

What sort of architects and designers are you hoping will apply?

This is problem for the entire human race, therefore we feel that everyone from elementary school students to the greatest architectural minds should be encouraged to participate. I doubt that anyone will make a name for themselves with a 12” pollinator house, but if we manage to stave off extinction for a while longer, that individual may be given the time they need to make their mark. Our submission requirements are simple and straightforward enough that an interested individual, student, architect or firm need simply submit their finished work; no need to collaborate locally. We would love to receive parcel post from the UK and elsewhere; this would add another layer of interest for our perspective buyers.

A pollinator house

A pollinator house

A pollinator house

Which other design opportunities are on the horizon and how will the architects/designers be procured?

BAF is embracing the design competitions as a way of promoting itself and its project partners. Currently, we are thinking of hosting a contest every two years opposite our flagship program Arch+Ed (which puts local designers in the classrooms of city schools and promotes education through architecture) meaning odd numbered years (e.g. 2017, 2019, 2021, etc). We have yet to lay out a road map for what each of those competitions will be, but as a small not-for-profit we do not anticipate those ever including whole buildings (beyond a thought exercise). As we work out the costs of such things, smaller commissions, green interventions, or public realm improvements may not be out of the question, however no such plans are yet in the works.