Investigation into ecological mitigation for housing development through animal architecture
During 2013/14 Synergy Housing are developing a number of small sites (formerly garages) for a total of 20 housing units on the Littlemoor residential estate area of Weymouth in Dorset, an area of significant economic and social disadvantage in the area. Synergy have commissioned artists Something and Son to develop the concept of “animal architecture” (e.g. bird or bat boxes, insect housing etc.) to be integrated into, and replicated throughout their development portfolio. Synergy’s objectives have been to support good design that does not require planning permission whilst using sustainable approaches, processes and material’s and creates a series of intriguing new structures for animal use that are well integrated into the development sites, increasing biodiversity in the Littlemoor area. Something & Son as a practice have completed a number of projects that have worked with the environment or wildlife. These have allowed them to collaborate with various professionals in the natural sciences including ornithologist, horticulturalists, mycologist and aquaculturists.
Something and Son started the project with a number of interventions on the estate including a workshop making bird feeders for families and an evening fire and barbeque to get to know some of the youth groups. This work soon led them to consider not only the development of physical structures as the outcome of the project but the socio-economic context for the work. For Synergy the artists thought of:
“unusual ways that allowed the community to come together… allowed us and the RSPB to have conversations about what we were trying to do… and for them to find out what they can do in their garden… We didn’t want this to be a tick box – we wanted to make sure that we had the correct approach and we had the community behind what we were doing” Angela Gould, Community Development Officer, Synergy Housing.
Therefore the strategy became to not only engage on the development of the artwork but to actually develop a social enterprise structure on the estate to deliver a unique concept in bird boxes that hopefully is sustainable in the long term, providing employment and supporting Synergy’s community development programme. In this way the partners for the project have been extended and now include the enthusiastic support of the RSPB who envisage this as a product sold to their 1 million members as well as the Wildlife Trusts. The RSPB have valued this collaboration as a way of further changing perceptions about the dislocation between nature and communities, that nature is confined to specific places such as Nature Reserves :
“art installations take people away from the idea that nature is over there” Tom Clarke, Project Development Officer for Bournemouth and Poole RSPB.
Something & Son will create 100 custom bird boxes for Littlemoor homes and in doing so help bring wildlife from the area down into people’s garden, setting in motion the opportunity to bring micro-manufacturing and economic activity to Littlemoor. The boxes will be manufactured locally using a laser cutter or CNC machine and marketed online under “A Little Moor” brand. The vision is for the laser cutting process to link to a design website where customers from around the world will be able to upload photographs of their home or fantasy residence, be it a cottage, mansion or terrace. These photos will be used to automatically generate an image suitable for a laser cutter which will be downloaded, cut and finished by “A Little Moor” before being posted to the customer. This process will be trialled in the creation of the birdbox sculptures. If successful, further funding will be sought to develop a full website, purchase a laser cutter and locate space within or near to Littlemoor to set up a production facility. By using their home as a starting point they hope residents will engage and care for the artwork and wildlife.
Something and Son – www.somethingandson.com