A Cloud for Bats

A unique habitat seeks to bring awareness to a disease decimating populations of the flying mammals.

By | August 2, 2012


Strung between a cluster of trees in a quiet nature reserve in Buffalo, New York, is a collection of large, metal pods. For now, they are quiet day and night, but the pods' architect, Joyce Hwang, hopes that in future twilights, they will be buzzing with the comings and goings of bats.

The network of pods was designed by Hwang, an assistant professor of architecture at the University at Buffalo, to be a bat habitat. She wanted the project to be striking as well as useful, to entice people to ask questions about bats. "Bats are very beneficial and helpful animals," says Hwang. "But we typically see them in things like horror movies, so they tend to have a bad rap."

The group of pods is called the "Bat Cloud," and it's Hwang's second experiment in urban bat habitat, the first being a "Bat Tower" installed in 2010 at the Griffis Sculpture Park in East Otto, south of Buffalo. She was shocked to discover bats were dying off in droves due to white nose syndrome, a fungal infection that was first identified in New York in 2006 and has gone on to kill an estimated 6.7 million North American bats.

The Bat Cloud was designed to appear as a mass even though it's made up of individuals, just like a group of bats diving for insects in the late evening light. Hwang wanted the Bat Cloud pods to be practical as well as beautiful, and consulted with University of Buffalo biologist Katharina Dittmar throughout the design process to ensure the bats could make a real home out of the pods.

Each pod is constructed of stainless steel, with a roosting area in the upper portion and native plants in the lower, wider area. The plants were included to attract insects, and will also benefit from the bat droppings, fertilising the floating gardens.

While bats haven't yet moved into to the pods, which were installed in May, Hwang notes they are often slow to explore new habitats and hopes in the mean time that the Bat Cloud is raising some questions.

"These are meant to be projects that instigate a sense of curiosity, so anybody can walk up and think 'Hey, what's that?'" says Hwang. "Once they find out that someone actually made an effort to do something for bats, they might wonder, 'Why'?"

View a slidehow of the Bat Cloud design and construction.

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Avatar of: Jill Roberts

Jill Roberts

Posts: 1457

August 3, 2012

Never mind that bats are a vector for RABIES!!!! Come on over here and check these little critters out, up close and personal!!!!!

Avatar of: CLMbirds


Posts: 1

August 3, 2012

From the CDC: In the United States, distinct strains of rabies
virus have been identified in raccoons, skunks, foxes, and coyotes. ....Several
species of insectivorous bats are also reservoirs for strains of the rabies


.....The most important global source of rabies in
humans is from uncontrolled rabies in dogs.  While dogs have historically been associated with
rabies transmission to humans, cats are more likely to be reported rabid in the

Avatar of: emyrtlemartin


Posts: 5

August 5, 2012

Have bats moved into the Bat Tower yet, or is this an exercise in feel-good performance art?

Avatar of: VirginiaRKtect


Posts: 1

August 8, 2012

As an architectural student, one project was to simply design a structure within a 3' cube in which a ping pong ball did something... ANYTHING. But the rule was that we were not allowed to have a ping pong ball.  When completed, 9/10s of them failed, because we grossly over-estimated what a ping pong ball could do.  The lesson learned?  Known the client before you design -- not the other way around!  Maybe bats like dark, cold, ugly, dirty caves for reasons of their own!  Design without client input is just poor architecture.  VA RKtect,

Avatar of: Patricia E. Donovan

Patricia E. Donovan

Posts: 1457

August 30, 2012

Wow, what a cynical, distrustful audience!
To VirginiaRKtect and emyrtlemartin: Joyce Hwang has designed other animal habitats, including other bat houses. She knows very well what she is doing, what bats look for in a potential home, what needs such an environment must satisfy, and so on. In fact, bats live in the attics and walls of houses, office buildings and other places that are not particularly humid, cold or dirty. Bats will not occupy a new habitat for more than a year after they site it, so the cloud is not yet occupied. This does not mean, however, that this is "an exercise in feel-good performance art." It is a serious exercise in animal architecture precipitated by a deep concern for and understanding for our batty friends. It is also an educational device that, it is hoped (especially given where it is located) will educate the public about the plight of thousands of bat colonies decimated by white nose syndrome.
To Jill Roberts and CLMbirds: MOST BATS DO NOT HAVE RABIES. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) report that, even among bats submitted for rabies testing because they could be captured, were obviously weak or sick, or had been captured by a cat, only about six percent had rabies. So the percentage is much, much lower in general bat populations.
In the meantime, the CDC point out that "Bats play key roles in ecosystems around the globe, from rain forests to deserts. They eat insects, including some that can cause lots of damage to farms and crops. They pollinate plants and they scatter seed. Studies of bats have contributed to medical advances including the development of navigational aids for the blind."

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