Standing next to a pond in the Griffis Sculpture Park south of Buffalo, NY is the Bat Tower, a new vertical cave designed to house our furry, flying friends and raise awareness about a disease that is threatening their populations. Designed by Joyce Hwang, an architect at the University at Buffalo and principal at Ants on the Prarie, the Bat Tower stands about 12 feet tall and is comprised of five triangular cavities that simulate a cave where bats can crawl in and safely rest. This work of pest architecture is already serving as a home for bats and will be officially dedicated on October 2nd.
Bats act as natural pollinators and anti-pest mechanisms and feed on mosquitoes and other insects, so giving them a safe place to rest buoys their population. Hwang designed and built the tower in order to raise awareness about a deathly disease affecting bat populations called ‘white nose syndrome‘. This syndrome has been documented in bats on the East coast all the way to the central plains and is a deadly affliction that has killed more than 1 million bats in recent years, striking the mammals as they hibernate. The syndrome is thought to be a result of pesticides, which is also considered one of the causes for Colony Collapse Disorder affecting bee populations.
Hwang, with the help of her architecture students at the University at Buffalo, built the 12 foot tower out of plywood. Five triangular segments are stacked together and held in place with bolts and cables and each segment consist of finished plywood panels arranged in a ribbed, accordion-like pattern, which allows the bats to crawl up inside. The exterior is covered with dark stained plywood in order to heat up the interior cavity for the bats. Four hundred pieces of plywood were used to create tight narrow spaces which are ideal for bats.
The Bat tower was created last spring at UB and then installed at Griffis Park in June. Students who have checked on the tower have reported that bats have already taken up residence in their new bat home, which will be a permanent installation in the sculpture park. The team also planted oregano and chives at the base of the tower in order to entice bats to the area.
Dedication for the Bat Tower will take place on October 2nd right around sunset, which will be an ideal time to view bats in action hunting for insects. The tower is located next to a pound in Griffis Sculpture Park about an hour south of Buffalo. A $10,000 grant from the New York State Council on the Arts made it possible for Hwang to test out her ideas on bat habitation. Hwang is also working on more architectural designs to encourage bat habitation. “Pest Wall” will be a new type of wall construction that would house bats and other “pests,” and then “Pest Pavilion” is a freestanding building whose roof would make an ideal home for bats.