Didzis Jaunzems Conjures Up a Swarm of Bats in Latvia

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On the grounds of an 18th-century Baroque manor, Didzis Jaunzems Architecture installed a swarm of paper bats 10,000 strong.

Zaļenieki Manor – erected in Zemgale, Latvia, in 1775 – is imposing enough all on its own: an austere mansion that melds Classical stone columns and heavy pediments with such Late Baroque touches as a resolutely projecting entrance and hallways replete with ancient frescoes. Last July, this dramatic setting was made eerier still – at least for a few nights – by Didzis Jaunzems Architecture of Riga, Latvia, thanks to a swirling tornado of some 10,000 bats.

Didzis Jaunzems bats installation Latvia

Suspended above a low stage on the manor grounds, the folded paper bats were affixed to a 1,000-square-metre canopy of netting, supported by columns on three corners. The installation was not just a work of art; it was also the centrepiece of 2016’s Nature Concert Hall, an annual festival launched in 2005, which pops up in a different location in Latvia each summer to teach families about the importance of conservation.

Didzis Jaunzems bats installation Latvia

The star of this year’s festival was Plecotus auritus, the brown long-eared bat. Following an appearance in Lūznava, Latvia, earlier in the summer, Didzis Jaunzems’ bats were relocated to Zemgale to preside over a range of activities that culminated in an after-dark performance; as the musicians performed, lights projected through the swarm amplified its numbers, casting dark shadows onto the manor’s facade.

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Didzis Jaunzems boasts a portfolio full of strikingly sculptural installations and pavilions. In fact, the canopy of bats is not the firm’s first time building an installation for Nature Concert Hall: in 2014, the architects erected a prism-like pavilion in a meadow, with angular walls made from vertical strips of white fabric, onto which scenes of nature were projected after sundown.

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