DIY garden art

Pollinator House Competition

Design it, build it, and donate it for a good cause (or two)!

pollinator house competition bird bat bee bug butterfly houses flyer
Entries due by May 15. Get building!

Gardens Buffalo Niagara (GBN) and the Buffalo Architecture Foundation (BAF) are holding a design build competition for pollinator houses – for bugs, bees, birds, butterflies, and bats!

Anyone can enter

Individuals, groups, and clubs are encouraged –  local, national, or international. We’re hoping to get entries from architects, carpenters, painters, students, engineers, lawyers, homemakers, designers – anyone with abilities or disabilities!

pollinator house competition bird bat bee bug butterfly houses flyer
A bat house in the Kurbs garden in Lockport, NY.

All we ask is that you deliver a functional, contemporary pollinator house (transportable in a 12″x12″x12″ maximum size)  to be auctioned off to support both Garden Walk Buffalo and Buffalo Architecture Foundation’s programs.

The importance of pollinators

With pollinator numbers in decline, having a pollinator house in the garden helps solitary-nesters by providing a cozy home and raise their young. Pollinators need large areas of habit to flourish – the more that can be done to protect and conserve native habitats, the more space these environmental champions will have to do their important work. By providing habitat for pollinators to dwell, as well as planting a plethora of native flowering vegetation, providing a clean water and mud source, and limiting pesticide use, we can do a great deal to help out with the plight of pollinators.

pollinator house competition bird bat bee bug butterfly houses flyer
A birdhouse I found in a garden in the Toronto Islands.

The conclusion of the competition will result in an auction of all submissions to support both GBN and BAF’s programs. Each entry should address the needs of its target animal while simultaneously addressing the basic demands of an outdoor enclosure. A commercially available, pre-fabricated 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.


Basic Expectations:

  • Reasonably shelter the selected pollinator
  • Provide adequate space for the selected pollinator to occupy the house
  • Provide creative and visually pleasing entry
  • Reasonable installation requirements are accounted forand BAF logo (available for download)

Heighten Expectations:

  • Unique fabrication methods and/or material choices
  • Distinctive architectural style or design
  • Use of recycled and/or sustainable materials
  • Inspire design appreciation and pollinator awareness
pollinator house competition bird bat bee bug butterfly houses flyer
A butterfly house in the Kurbs garden in Lockport, NY

A Pollinator House, serving a pollinator identified by the entrant and a brief design narrative (250 words or less). For logistical purposes, the house in its “moveable” form cannot be larger than 12” x 12” x 12”.

Entrants will be responsible for all design, fabrication and delivery of each entry.  Multiple entries are encouraged; however, separate entry forms must be submitted for each entry.


Free and Open to all!
Climate conscious architects, designers, gardeners, sculptors, carpenters, students, etc. are encouraged to participate, however all entrants must possess a competent level of construction quality to ensure the successful execution of the Pollinator House.

Entrants are not required to be residents of New York State nor the United States, however, because this is a design-build competition, it is expected that entrants be capable of delivering (personally or by package post) the finished product to the drop off site at their own cost.

pollinator house competition bird bat bee bug butterfly houses flyer
From the Kurbs garden in Lockport, NY
Entry Process

Final and constructed Pollinator House entries will be accepted starting at the release of this brief, through May 15, 2019. A final drop-off location in Buffalo, NY will be announced in a subsequent press releases, closer to the final delivery acceptance date. Any submissions desired to be delivered prior to announce of a final location can contact to coordinate a drop off. No entry fee is required.

Selection Criteria

Entrants are encouraged to take wide latitude in determining the form, function and style of their design(s). To ensure dedication to the BAF and GBN’s competition intent, all designs will be judged on the following criteria:

  • Overall design execution
  • Originality
  • Suitability for pollinator
  • Sustainability
pollinator house competition bird bat bee bug butterfly houses flyer
Found in a Snyder Clevehill garden outside Buffalo. This birdhouse has a tiny birdhouse!

A jury of esteemed representatives from Western New York architectural and gardening community will comprise will be reviewing all submissions for design quality, ingenuity, creativity, sustainability, and execution.  Awards recognizing minimally the following categories will be given:

  • Best overall entry
  • Most likely to attract a pollinator
  • Best student entry (K-12)
  • Possibility of Replication

Although not certain or guaranteed, it is desired to select one or more designs for replication to commemorate Garden Walk Buffalo’s 25th anniversary. The Competition Committee will contact entrants for possible fabrication refinements if the design is selected.

pollinator house competition bird bat bee bug butterfly houses flyer
Here’s a birdhouse I just got for Christmas from a friend. I’ll probably paint it and make it a finial for the shed.
  • Submissions accepted now through May 15, 2019
    Final questions received: May 1, 2019
  • Display of entries: During the Buffalo-style Garden Art Sale (June 29 & 30 on the Buffalo Botanical Gardens Grounds), Garden Walk Buffalo and other sites around the region.
  • Final Auction: TBD (September?)
Rules and Regulations

All entrants must abide by the following:

  • Entrants give Buffalo Architecture Foundation (BAF) and Gardens Buffalo Niagara (GBN) permission to reproduce their submission without restriction.
    No royalties shall be payable by BAF or GBN or any other sponsors for use of the submission entry materials.
  • Entrants verify that all information provided in the Entry Form is true and their submission is subject to disqualification if it is found that any information has been falsified.
  • Entrants affirm that they are sole owner of the materials identified in the Pollinator House Competition entry, that each submitted entry is an original work, and that neither these materials nor the permission granted hereby infringes upon the ownership, copyright, trademark, or rights of others.
  • pollinator house competition bird bat bee bug butterfly houses flyer
    Another repurposed birdhouse in the Kerbs garden in Lockport.

    All deliverables become property of Buffalo Architecture Foundation and Gardens Buffalo Niagara.

  • Entries shall not have been previously published in any competition publication, whether printed, online, or otherwise.
  • Entries shall not have been selected as a finalist, winner, honorable mention, etc. in any other competition.
  • If the design is submitted from a team of people, all team members must be identified on the entry form with a clearly identified team leader.
  • Entrants are not allowed to discuss details of their competition designs and/or entries with any of the judges directly whatsoever. Any attempt to do so will result in immediate disqualification.
  • Any deviation from competition rules may result in automatic disqualification at the discretion of the jury.

I will be creating a few entries – maybe even making two of each, because whatever I build I may not want to part with too easily. If I am ambitious and find the time and creativity, I may make one of each for birds, bats, bees, bugs, and butterflies.

All of mine will be made from found objects from around my house – as I don’t want to spend any sum of money on them, but at the same time have lots of extra wood and bits and pieces of “stuff” I’ve collected for no reason whatsoever.

Most of these birdhouses shown, including the lead image are from the garden of Ken Kurbs in Lockport, NY, one of the gardens in GBN’s Tours of Open Gardens on Thursdays an Fridays in July. Here are a few more of his collection …

Jim Charlier is an advertising designer/photographer/crafter with a serious gardening problem. He's co-written a garden design book featuring the funky, quirky and fun gardens by the gardeners of Buffalo titled "Buffalo-Style Gardens: Create a Quirky, One-of-a-Kind Private Garden with Eye-Catching Designs" (; he writes a long-standing garden blog (; led the largest garden tour in America, Garden Walk Buffalo; has written for, or provided photography for dozens of magazines and books; has made presentations and participated in panel discussions on garden design and garden tourism nationally and internationally.

1 comment on “Pollinator House Competition

  1. Kathleen Shandraw

    Exciting idea . I’m making some,
    even if they only end up in my own garden


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: