EMERGING VOICES> ANTS OF THE PRAIRIE
BAT TOWER, GRIFFIS SCULPTURE PARK, EAST OTTO, NEW YORK.
The Architectural League’s 32nd
annual Emerging Voices Award brings a focus to
creative practices that will influence the future direction of
architecture. Each of the eight firms delivered a lecture in
Manhattan in March as part of the distinction.
This Buffalo research and architecture practice focuses its work on confronting issues in contemporary ecology
Ants of the Prairie is a Buffalo-based research and architecture
practice “dedicated to developing creative approaches in
confronting the pleasures and horrors of our contemporary
ecologies.” Founded in 2004 by Joyce Hwang, an associate
professor of architecture at the University at Buffalo, the
firm creates visually striking structures designed to improve the
natural world—and our connection to it as well.
Working with different collaborators—including students,
researchers, architects, and biologists—much of Ants’
recent work has been dedicated to improving conditions for bats. If
you are wondering why anyone would want to help bats, then this
project is as much for you as it is for them.
Hwang’s Bat Tower, for example, a 12-foot-tall twisting
sculpture she created in Griffis Sculpture Park, is partially
intended to change the way we understand bats; or what she says are
too-often viewed as “urban pests.”
BAT TOWER INTERIOR, LOOKING DOWN FROM INHABITATION ZONE.
INTENSIFIED REFLECTIONS IS PART OF THE “CITY OF
DREAMS” MINIATURE GOLF COURSE THAT WAS BUILT AS PART OF THE
NYC FIGMENT FESTIVAL IN 2008.
“In an attempt to bring visibility to bats, Bat Tower
challenges notions of the typical off-the-shelf bat house,”
explained Hwang. “Rather than innocuously fading into the
background, the tower stands as a prominently visible outdoor
But the impressive tower, with its triangular plywood slats that
bend back-and-forth, is more than a piece of art; it is a
“vertical cave” that provides shelter and habitation
for bats, which are threatened by both natural disease and human
Working with students at the University of Buffalo, Hwang also
created “Bat Cloud” in the city’s Tifft Nature
Reserve. The cloud is a “hanging canopy of vessels that is
designed and constructed to support bat habitation.” From a
distance, the vessels appear as a cloud, or perhaps part of an
enchanted forest from a Tim Burton film. Either way, each
vessel’s plants and soil provide shelter for local bats.
Looking forward, Hwang is working on a second iteration of Bat
Cloud for the International Architecture Biennale Rotterdam this
spring. And through future projects like Habitat Wall and Pest
Wall, she hopes to continue using design to improve conditions for
wildlife and our connection to the natural world.
The latter project, for example, will provide shelter for bats
and other wildlife within an urban environment. Hwang says the
project aims to “question our embattled notions of the word
‘pest’ by intensifying the visibility and awareness of
typically ‘undesired’ animals that are critical to our
Ultimately, the architect is interested in pursuing
“projects that are about inclusion of multiple species in the
PEST WALL, A PROPOSAL TO INCORPORATE URBAN WILDLIFE HABITAT
CONDITIONS IN A BUILDING FACADE.
GENERATIVE ZONING IS A RESEARCH PROJECT TO REVEAL SPATIAL
AND ECOLOGICAL OPPORTUNITIES WITHIN CURRENT ZONING ORDINANCES IN
BUFFALO, NY .
ENTICING THE FLOOD IS A PROPOSAL FOR THE VENICE LAGOON,
DEVELOPED FOR THE 2G VENICE LAGOON PARK COMPETITION IN