Hwang collaborated with current and former architecture students at the University of Buffalo (where she teaches) to create Bat Cloud, an extension of her 2010 project, a bat tower at Griffis Sculpture Park.
Hanging from cottonwood trees on cables, the cluster of pods closely resembles a colony of roosting bats. A bowl-shaped bed of plastic, aluminum and Astrolar fabric lines the base of a stainless steel mesh pod. This section is topped with soil and native plants to attract insects – the bat’s food source – and serve as a collection site for bat dung, fertilizing the plants. The upper section of the pod features cut-outs and functions as the roosting area. Hwang’s team consulted Katharina Dittmar, a biological sciences professor at UB, to make sure the project satisfied the bats’ requirements.
The installation furthers Hwang’s research and development of structures that bring attention to the ecologically critical animals – often regarded as pests. She was initially inspired by the spectacle of the crowds that swarm the Congress Avenue Bridge in Austin, Texas, to witness the antics of the nearly 1.5 million bats that call the bridge home during the spring and summer.
Hwang is also concerned about the alarmingly rapid rate at which bats are dying as a result of an infection that forces them to emerge from hibernation early, causing them to starve and freeze to death. Their dwindling numbers (approximately seven million have died since 2006) has adverse effects on ecosystems, prompting heightened usage of chemicals for insect control.
Bat Cloud will be on view at the Venice Architecture Biennale as part of the U.S. pavilion, Spontaneous Interventions: Design Actions for the Common Good.