Cool High-Rise Bat Habitat Draws Nature's Pest-Fighters to New York Sculpture Park (Video)

bat tower joyce hwang photo

The Bat Tower under construction in Griffis Sculpture Park. Photo via GOOD.

If all goes well between now and Halloween, Griffis Sculpture Park in upstate New York will be ready for the spooky occasion with its very own colony of bats, thanks to the artsy "Bat Tower" a group of architectural students is building to draw the pest-fighting pollinators to the area -- and to raise awareness about the positive role these sometimes creepy-seeming critters play in the local ecosystem.

"Bats are animals that people practically consider to be pests, so there is a lack of desire to see them in the environment around us," says Bat Tower creator Joyce Hwang, an assistant professor in the University at Buffalo's School of Architecture and Planning. "But bats are a critical part of the ecosystem, and now they are facing this threat."

The threat Hwang refers to is white-nose syndrome, which she calls "a major ecological crisis." Caused by exposure to a particular fungus, the mysterious disease has been afflicting bats in the eastern United States, killing more than a million of the animals thus far.

A slide-show video about the building of the Bat Tower. Video via YouTube.

The loss of bats would pose a significant problem to people, who benefit from their efficient work controlling pests such as mosquitoes, as well as their role pollinating flowers. The 12-foot-tall, 4-foot-wide Bat Tower, which Hwang compares to a vertical cave and was inspired by caves' long, seemingly endless hollows, aims to draw attention to this threat, as well as to concentrate bats' natural pest-control abilities in the park. The academic received a $10,000 grant from the New York State Council on the Arts for the project, which she has been constructing along with her architecture students.

A Very Visible Bat House
"Since I was a graduate student, I have taken an interest in the constructive relationships between humans and animals, and how we can shape our environment in a beneficial way," Hwang says. "Bat Tower draws attention to bats by challenging the notion of a bat house being something nondescript that fades into the background."

The Bat Tower will be dedicated Oct. 2 with an opening reception and a short hike, but according to one of Hwang's student assistants, it's already doing its job: Bats have seen emerging from the tower at dusk.

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