Beat of Biodiversity
Laura Zura – Puntaroni, Matilde Valagussa, Mates Bialek, Tomes Raimondi & Pierre Mangematin
What does biodiversity mean in an urban context? Is it possible to conceive an interaction between vegetation, animals and men in the space that has always been only men’s habitat? What kind of relationship is it possible to establish between men and animals?
It is a matter of fact that cities were born to host civilization, intended as development of human social activities, and to reject nature: in the past, often a wall separated them from the countryside. As the product of social animals, cities have always been intended as an anthropocentric space in which every element has to be thought in rela- tionship with men. Trees, gardens, parks are under control and the only animals voluntary accepted are the ones at the service of men’s habits.However, it is noticeable that a process has been going on. According to Françoise Choay’s analysis on public spaces, there has been a development of green areas in cities since medieval times to the XIX century. This process of desegregation of the limit between city and countryside reaches its pick in the contemporary explosion of the city, which defines a strong break in history. The medieval wall has become a non-existing border, breaking definitely the conceptual segregation of human social spaces in cities. The fact that men can’t frame anymore their relationship with nature and animals, which once was so clear, has driven to the necessary conceptualization of cities as an integrated system of built environment and natural one. Which doesn’t mean an incoherent development of wildness, but a slow percolation of atmospheres and activities from the countryside to the mineralized context.
The project consists of a strategy to increase animal biodiversity in cities and its pacific coexistence with men. It derives from the analysis of two animals that have a relationship with human beings, in different ways. On one hand bats, which are worm-eating animals very adaptable to city context. On the other hand bees, depending almost completely on men’s care because of the disappearance of natural beehives, and very important for pollination.
- The choice of bats and bees is due to different reasons:
- They have similar characteristics in terms of alimentation; they both need vegetation: bees need pollen, while bats eat insects attracted by plants
- They don’t interfere with each other; they are active in different moments of a 24-hour day: in general, bees during the day and bats at night
- They are both flying animals; therefore they can be displaced in height.
In the practical insertion of the project in Milan and its periurban area, the action focuses on some iconic and aban- doned structures, such as water towers. These structures have been chosen because of their height and because not inhabitable by men. Besides, great importance has been given to the green areas around them: a 2.5-diameter circular area, which represent the action field of bats and bees, has been analyzed in quantity and quality of green. The project develops from the point of view of animals and therefore takes into account the main real necessities of bats and bees:
- The heights at which the animals can fly
- The necessity for bats to have a summer and a winter habitat, different one from the other
- The kind of vegetation and pollen needed by bees.
The aim of the development of the tall structures is the creation of an ecosystem-landmark for animals: a sort of point of reference not only for bats and bees, but also for many other species. In fact, the introduction of vegetation naturally drives to an increase in the biodiversity of animals. So, the project addresses to different species.
How to approach the design of these landmarks for animals? Through simple and modular elements that first of all answer animal’s needs:
- Wooden panels and steel frames for bats: the first ones to answer summer needs and the second ones for winter periods
- Beehives for bees: the habitat for bee’s life
- Supports for vegetation: needed to help plants growing in height
Among the disposition of the towers, three main strategic points have been chosen to become reference for the honey making process. Moreover, these points have been charged of the role to increase consciousness about the theme of urban biodiversity: labs and guided activities have been planned. To increase people’s awareness, a second and diffused network has been projected too. It consists of a spread system of devices for bats and bees to be installed on city roofs. Inhabitants could choose to put on their house roof an element to attract bats or to take care of bees. Originally designed beehives can be put on flat roofs: the owners could ask for help and support to the three reference points in the city. On the contrary, panels for bats can be installed on sloping roofs: in this case, not particular care is required. As to help people to understand and deal with their own device, the concept of an application for smartphones has been developed. This tool is necessary to give information and guide people in the relationship with animals.
In conclusion, the project wants to recreate a contemporary coexistence of men and natural environment: a new proximity between men and animals that answers the already existing penetration of country fingers in the city.
Who influences you graphically?
As an international and eterogeneous group, we all have different background and various influences – the graphic result (featuring colours and patterns) aims to underline the main objective of the project: to develop a system for animals, enhancing their cohexistence with the human being.
Do you view your proposal as a module which could be applied to different cities and ecosystems?
Definitly yes. The aim is to create a network that could be potentially spread in all urban systems, analysing carefully every single case and habitat in order to develop the best conditions for the animal life.
You explore your proposal through night and day environments, what about seasons?
For each tower we tried to explain all different cases: night, day, winter and summer, depending on the visible changing regarding flora and fauna, that are deeply analyzed and studied in further graphs.
You never show a true co-existence between man and animal, why so?
The starting point of the project is to insert the animal being in a common known human habitat: the main focus in this case is the nature. We believe that a cohexistence can be achieved by the careful balance between proximity and distance, interaction and indipendence. Two different lines of action are developed: on one side, as is possible to see for behives, the need of a strong collaboration, while on the other side, for bats, a parallel pacific cohexistence.
In the photomontage is their a specific reason behind the placing of the bat panels with respects to their orientation? (human proximity, winds, etc)
The photomontage expresses the second level of the network we aim to develop: the spread of the system at urban level, reaching the awarness of citizen. Both bat panels and behaves are placed in order to provide the better place for the real client of the project, animals, but at the same time giving to everyone the opportunity to join a new urban system, placing innovative disposals on roofs.
While behives are placed on flat roof (so man can interact with the animal and take care of it), sloping roof are exclusively for bats: they need no direct interaction with the human being. Dimensions and distances are studied to provide the best habitat for the animals: they usually sleep during the day, needing narrow quite spaces, while during the night they are active and the proximity to source of light is an advantage for their nutrition.
You mainly explore your proposal in section, why so?
Due to the main feature of the typology of the water tower, the height, we decided to develop all the analysis and drawings in section.
Another reason is because the two main actors of our project, bees and bats, live respectly at different height during different season and daytime. Height is also used as a means to introduce a landmark for animals and, in this case, to take the necessary physical distance from the urban life. We strongly believe that without this feature a pacific cohexistence would not be possible.
Laura Zura – Puntaroni (Italy), Matilde Valagussa (Italy), Tommaso Raimondi (Italy), Pierre Mangemantin (France) and Mateusz Bialek (Poland) are a group of italian and international architecture student, who started to work together at the Town Planning Design Studio of Professor Stefano Boeri, Politecnico di Milano.
With different perspectives and ways of seeing architecture, their dibate focused on the relationship between man and wild nature in the urban context. Is a non-anthropocentric view of contemporary cities possible?