Art objects combining an ecological theme with functional value for wildlife and public engagement. Recent examples are a series of pollen grain sculptures for an urban park, each representing a native tree species visible nearby and each hollowed out and packed with a mix of organic and inorganic materials to provide overwintering habitats for invertebrates, small mammals reptiles and amphibians. Safe refuge, for hibernation and other forms of winter torpor and dormancy, as well as summer aestivation, are important components of ecological networks and often lacking in urban landscapes. The sculptures provide an interpretive resource, provoking interest in the site and its environment, an aesthetic landscape quality, and a constructed environment for wildlife, aggregating and concentrating public and ecological benefits in individual locations. This approach is an effective way to both communicate and demonstrate corporate environmental goals and CSR objectives, creating real features with biological value and information content. Sculptural hibernacula can be customised to fit the design, landscape and ecological character of any location.
Artecology believes in making the natural world accessible to all, enhancing populations of urban biodiversity through designs and structures that at the same time enrich public places for people. Our playspaces do just this, building wildlife encounter into school and community grounds through unique play architecture.
Artecology was a 2016 Big Biodiversity Challenge award-winner for its Maxted Close project. We worked with local families and a team from Sovereign Housing Association to create a ‘biopark’ from a small corner plot of leftover ground. The park featured:
· Sculpted rock escarpment with fossil designs, made with cracks and perforations for ground beetles, mining bees and other invertebrates plus small ‘drip pool’ hollows beneath the canopy line of the overhanging oaks for micro-wetland habitats.
· ‘Pump-track’ circuit for scooters and bikes enclosing a mini-meadow in its centre, the inner edge of the track perforated with invertebrate refuge spaces.
· A multi-functional outdoor teaching space for local schools and home education network.
· Magnifying posts, hand-made with local species etched in pyrography, providing a ‘mini-lab’ for on-the-spot investigation of finds.
· Stag beetle ‘log castle’ - high-priority BAP/NERC species with a handful of annual local records.
· A greenwall of high pollen/nectar climbers including foliage foodplants for invertebrates to clad metal railings and fill a Leylandii hedge with cover and food for wildlife.
· All turfs from the parts dug out for sculpting were saved and stacked to make a ‘vertical garden’ with added wild strawberry and sweet woodruff (good ground cover in shade).
· Nest box poles erected with 3 different designs.
As with all of our projects, where the opportunities allow, we make the creation of nature playspaces public events events, with plenty of wildlife discovery thrown in, for local residents and visiting groups of all kinds. Artecology commissions and installations in 2017 included work with the Royal Society, the office of the Hampshire Police and Crime Commissioner, Artswork, the Scottish Wildlife Trust and the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh. Engagement through Artecology is perfect for launch events, development consultations, educational outreach and community projects.
Artecology techniques in sculpted anthropic stone can be used to give large-scale hard landscaping natural form, integrated wildlife features, seating, interpretation and ornament. Our built topography is shaped to incorporate planting areas, drainage, caves and crevices, outcrops and boulders, designing-in features to trap and build soils, create ephemeral and permanent pools, and accelerate colonisation. Previous projects include the creation of a 50m artificial rock face using salvaged single-decker coaches as the armature.
Terrestrial and freshwater Artecology landscapes are further enhanced when the built habitats we supply are complemented by planting that optimises ‘life-cycle’ habitats. Our products and installations deliver breeding, refuge, overwintering, display and a host of other ecological functions, together in one location. By choosing the right plants we can add pollen, nectar, foliage, seeds, fruit and additional habitat structure, packed into the same space. The proximity of Artecology installations and complementary planting can deliver a complete set of niches and resources for invertebrates, small mammals, songbirds (this is urban rewilding).