In Griffis Sculpture Park near Buffalo, New York, a twisting triangular tower serves more than a purely aesthetic purpose. Designed by architect and assistant professor at the University of Buffalo, Joyce Hwang, the 12-foot-tall sculpture of stained plywood panels is conceptualized as a protective home for bats. Constructed conspicuously but practically, the University reports that Hwang’s Bat Tower is an effort to raise awareness for the recent disease-caused decline of these flying mammals, usually considered pests.
Architecture students at University of Buffalo help to construct the Bat Tower. (Courtesy University of Buffalo)
Hwang, who teaches architecture and also directs her own firm, Ants of the Prairie, is committed to use of the built environment for the benefit of the natural environment. For Bat Tower, the construction is animal-friendly; five segments of wood panels create a stack of irregular triangular prisms and their vertically slatted widths (also triangle-shaped) have enough space between each panel for the bats to enter. Inside, the tower mimics a cave-like habitat and a series of screws and steel cables serve dual purpose to stabilize the tower and allow animal perches for hibernation.
According to the University of Buffalo, while the bats are in this seasonal sleep, they can become susceptible to white-nose syndrome. Although little is know about the disease, it has already killed over one million of the Northeast’s bat population. Hwang’s built habitat mimics the environment of a natural cave, giving bats a safe, familiar home. She also hopes that the bold design of her tower will encourage education about their recent devastation.
As an architect, Hwang continuously explores the use of architecture for ecological benefit. “Since I was a graduate student, I have taken an interest in the constructive relationships between humans and animals, and how we can shape our environment in a beneficial way,” she said. “Bat Tower draws attention to bats by challenging the notion of a bat house being something nondescript that fades into the background.”