Often, we’re inspired by the small things in life that leave lasting impressions. Art. Film. Photography. Novels. Poetry. Bedtime stories. Acts of kindness. Relationships. The sources for inspiration are endless. Such is the case for the inspiration behind Overland’s new intern project, a Little Free Library we call Birdie’s Nook.

Every night during my childhood our family had a story time just before bed, and I remember The Giving Tree, by Shel Silverstein, being one of my favorites. At the time, my 5-year-old mind only vaguely understood the meaning of the exchange between the tree and the boy—I focused more on asking my parents how trees could talk. But the time we spent together at my bedside instilled in me the desire to read, an appetite that only continues to grow. Now, as a father, reading these same stanzas to my sons brings new meaning to their words. At four years of age, my oldest son is only starting to understand what poetry is and how it can be funny or entertaining. These tales are developing his foundation of inspiration, reminiscent of my own memories with my parents.

Ben Rosas reads to his two sons.

Ben Rosas reads to his two sons.

My interpretation of The Giving Tree is simply about the selfless act of giving without expectation of receiving anything in return. The tree never asks anything of the boy. Giving brings joy to the tree.

In many ways, buildings epitomize this concept: they are designed for service and to give without expectation. At Overland, our buildings are a reflection of the people that they serve. They are not iconic for the sake of being iconic, but if they are, it’s because of the unique qualities of our clients and the end users.

What makes Overland a unique place is that our brand and image is in our process. It’s less prescriptive and more about utilizing the right tools and methods as required by each project’s objectives and critical issues. We remove our firm’s identity from the design equation and instead focus on listening in order to thoroughly understand the unique aspirations and needs of the clients and users we serve. Brought to life in each project, the result is a physical expression of context, place, and people.

Inherently, this process is of a selfless attitude, and as a result, the buildings carry that attitude on as places that serve our clients well. They are designed to make positively impact, to enhance the quality of life of communities, and to bring joy to those that inhabit them.

A Little Free Library near Portland's Hollywood District

A Little Free Library near Portland’s Hollywood District Photo credit: WikiMedia Commons

It has been a long-standing tradition at Overland to participate in small projects around the city that benefit the larger community. One of my roles at Overland is to co-lead our intern group in one of these small projects. Historically, we’ve participated in events like CANstruction, Story Book Houses, and Luminaria just to name a few.

In electing our current intern project, I found myself reflecting on my sons, our story time, and the wisdom of The Giving Tree. Looking for a project that could encapsulate their inspiration and the Overland brand led us to Little Free Library, a free neighborhood book exchange. These small wooden boxes of books can be found across the globe, allowing anyone to take a book or leave one. Never expecting anything in return, communities stock their Little Free Library shelves with their favorite works in hopes that another reader might find inspiration. Building a Little Free Library serves to increase book access, allows Overland interns experience our design process, and—we hope—will inspire a love of reading. Although small in scale, it will have a lasting impact.

Regard it as just as desirable to build a chicken house as to build a cathedral.— Frank Lloyd Wright

Everything is design. A chicken coop can have the same impact as a large building, and on a micro scale, the Little Free Library concept has the same opportunities. Our approach to this design should be no different than our approach to designing a master plan, academic building, museum, or private residence.

If we’re modeling and influencing the world through the practice of architecture, that mission exists on every scale: at the building scale, the planning scale, and even at the human scale.

Giving and being selfless are ways in which we might influence the world. To me, taking on the role of an engaged listener and providing design expertise to benefit a neighborhood influences the world. The Little Free Library exhibits the same selfless character of The Giving Tree. That is the motivation behind this project.

We will collaborate with the City of San Antonio Parks and Recreation Department and the Monticello Park Neighborhood Association to bring a design forward by the end of March, and in April, we will begin fabrication. Our Little Free Library—Birdie’s Nook— will become part of the community, providing books and a place of rest while expecting nothing in return. Its giving invites joy. That will be its purpose.

Follow behind-the-scenes throughout the design process. Search #BirdiesNook on Instagram and Twitter.

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