Animal Architecture at ARUP

Animal Estates London HQ. Image: Abäke

Footprint recently visited Arup’s Animal Estates HQ for discussions on bats and green roofs chaired by ecologist Gary Grant.  The audience was surrounded by the latest in animal architecture, from an insect hotel to bat bricks and bee houses. Animal Estates poses the question devised by artist Fritz Haeg: what if animals were clients in the building process?

Martin Fernandez de Cordova

Bee houses by Amy Pliszka. Photo: Martin Fernandez de Cordova

Kelly Gunnell from the Bat Conservation Trust discussed the requirements of the bat client. As excellent indicators of biodiversity, bats are a great starting point for encouraging diverse habitats. When designing for bats, it’s important to analyse connections between neighbouring areas of biodiversity. Bats need a suitable roost, but also good commuting routes to foraging sites. Biodiversity requires a consideration not just of individual buildings, but of urban landscapes, connections and networks.

Mapping biodiversity across London at Arup Phase 2

Mapping biodiversity across London at Arup Phase 2

Connecting green ‘stepping stones’ are important for creating wildlife ‘corridors’ through the city. Kate Priestman from Arup presented a green-roofed vision of the City of London that could help future bat populations. She discussed the importance of varying colours, textures and substrates when designing a living roof, and cited interesting case studies, from the highline in New York to the Arup’s project for Regents Place in Camden.

Green roof strategy for the City of London.

A study for the Living Roof Forum has shown that 200 million m2 of roof space in the UK can be greened with little modification. Pocket habitats are a unique way of retrofitting green roofs and were presented by Russell Hartwell from Sky Gardens. Since Footprint’s last post, they have been tested on a number of sites in the City, with successful flowering poppies and marigolds on the 2000sq m green roof retrofit of Exchange House in Broadgate.
Ken Adlard

Pocket habitats on display. Photo: Ken Adlard

All this talk of bats, herons and hedgehogs conjures up images of pastoral landscapes. Yet urban biodiversity is often as unkempt and unexpected as the city itself. From pocket habitats in multi-storey carparks, to bat-sightings in Elephant and Castle, urban biodiversity can be far removed from the rural idyll.

In fact, carefully designed co-habitation between people and animals can help aid urban regeneration. Kelly Gunnell discussed a successful example of this in Austin, Texas. Here, bats appropriated an existing bridge structure and became a spectacle that revitalised the surrounding public space. ‘Add-on’ bird boxes can be beautiful, but urban biodiversity can also capture the architectural imagination on a larger scale. Recognising animals as clients in our urban environments can introduce a rich diversity that benefits people, too.

Austin Post

Bats living in Austin, Texas Photo: Austin Post

Further Animal Estates discussions on sparrows, swifts and bees can be watched online here.

The exhibition and upcoming workshops are free and open to the public until January 20th. More details here.

By Tierney Lovell, past AJ sustainability intern.

One Response to “Animal Architecture at ARUP”

  1. Great article! I want a bat house! It would be great to have a site where people could map their bat house locations to see where more were needed, etc. Not sure I would be helping them at this point if I were the only house with bat accommodations.

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