Tuesday, 11 October 2016

Ceramic Art Bat Boxes at Holton Lee, Dorset

I’m Janna Edwards and I run 15Days in Clay, a local Community Award winning ceramic Art project, at Livability Holton Lee. Holton Lee is an idyllic 350 acres of woodland, heath, reed-beds, a few fields and some important buildings and all on the edge of Poole harbour. This is where our studio is based.

At the start, in 2003, I had just enough funding to run a ceramic class for 8 people, one day a week over 15 weeks, hence the name. Thirteen years on and we now have over 40 artists attending over 4 days a week and supported buy a team of exceptionally talented volunteers. The artists have a range of learning /physical needs and we have built an supportive environment where they can engage and progress their creativity and talents to become artists in their own right.

As for the bat boxes; in the field by our studio a big old oak tree succumbed to a violent storm a few years ago; all the branches broke off and all that was left standing was its huge trunk. Geoff Jones, who worked at the time for Holton Lee, asked if we could make some bat boxes to go on the trunk to make a bit of a show.

We had just had a big exhibition at Poole’s Art Centre, The Lighthouse. For which each of us made large quirky busts of ourselves, some 50 all together; it was a huge success and we followed on with the bat boxes taking on a basic design with each artist giving their individual take on the box transforming it into something special, but they never got to adorn the tree trunk.

There was a Community Fair coming up, the boxes were ready and after a bit of head scratching it was felt that a more suitable setting for them would be on the wall of the ‘Old Farmhouse’. Here they not only look fantastic, blowing our own trumpet, so to speak, but also very timely.

The Farm House with a 15 Days in Clay Totem obscuring the view of
the bat boxes on the right hand wall of the farm house

The farmhouse is home to three species of resident bats and there is also another smaller colony in the adjacent building called ‘The Barn’ , its not actually a barn and it is being upgraded to a new life as a spinal injury rehabilitation centre. This work could not have been done without the Farmhouse next door being able to provide alternative accommodation. With a bit of luck the bat boxes will soon have their first batty residents.
It makes me very proud to be able to show off their work in the bat boxes now on permanent display

So , any time you are near Poole, call in to have a closer peek at our work and enjoy our wonderful surroundings.

Janna pointing out the bat boxes.

Further information

Wednesday, 5 October 2016

A unique bridge for bats by next architects

“A textbook example of how a functional object can at the same time serve nature.” This is how bat-expert Marcel Schillemans from the Dutch Mammal Society described the recently completed Vlotwatering Bridge in the Netherlands. What is the story behind this unique ‘bat-bridge’?

The ‘bat bridge’ is part of the Poelzone, an elongated area in the municipality of Westland between the existing towns of ‘s-Gravenzande, Naaldwijk and Monster. Along the waterway a new green recreational area has been realised, including a cycle route, natural banks and spawn sites for fishes. The design for the landscape was conceived by LOLA Landscape Architects to strengthen the existing ecological connections and to have the natural and recreational functions complement each other. The new Vlotwatering Bridge by NEXT architects was commissioned by the municipality of Westland and is part of this broader plan.

The bridge is made for slow traffic (pedestrians and cyclist) and cars to a private house. The Vlotwatering is a flight-route for the numerous different bat species that live in the area. Recently, summer roost have been found nearby the water. Moreover, as the newly designed water-banks will attract more insects, it is expected the bat population will further grow. Thus, a bridge over the water offers a unique opportunity to for a bat-friendly design: the concrete mass of the construction creates an optimal climate and an ideal habitat for these mammals..

In designing the Vlotwatering Bridge, we worked closely with the bat-experts Herman Limpens and Marcel Schillemans (Mammals Association - Zoogdiervereniging). A first and important step in the process was a programme of requirements for the bats. Ecological designs are often blamed for having a high degree of “geitenwollensokken” ­- a Dutch expression referring to a certain kind of idealism, perceived to be naive, theoretical (much talk, little action), and foolishly optimistic, and therefore not achieving its goals. Hence, at NEXT we knew that the key to success was in finding a new approach: inquisitive and based on research. Instead of starting from existing references or common solutions, we based our design on the ecological requirements.  With this project we wanted to take ecological design to the NEXT level. This was most challenging for all parties involved.

With a length of 25 meters, the bridge consists of a concrete arch that spans the entire Vlotwatering and marks the entrance of the Poelzone. At its highest point, the bridge curves to form an S-shape and offer a panoramic view of the area. To design a bridge that would simultaneously be a habitat for bats, it was important to distinguish between different species, as each one has specific needs. The design of the various stays is customized based on the type, function and location and resulted in three specific components, each providing a specific opportunity for bats:

-         Bridge abutment. At the north side the abutment functions as a winter stay.
-         Bottom deck. To accommodate stays for bats during the summer
-         Bridge balustrade. Similarly to the deck, the balustrade provides accommodation for the summer

To optimize the suitability of the bridge for bats, the structure is made out of concrete, which provides a stable and pleasant climate for bats. Moreover, the concrete’s material qualities, high strength, freedom of shape, and easy workability make it possible to make a distinctive bridge that fits within the environment and cycle path. On the underside of the bridge there are entrance slots that have a rough finish for a better grip. The slots are part of a pattern of grooves in the concrete arch.

The different types of accommodation that are incorporated into the bridge are visible in subtle way to the visitors of the Poelzone. The bridge’s ecological functions have been translated to attention-enhancing details, making the Vlotwatering Bridge into a unique project, for both humans and animals.

The Vlotwatering Bridge was completed in the beginning of October 2015.
More information about the project: http://www.nextarchitects.com/en/projects/vlotwatering_bridge?c=bridges