CLAUDIA WEGWORTH + KALAMAN: SPATZENFAVELA, A SHANTY TOWN FOR EVICTED URBAN BIRDS
Urban renewal – even of the ostensibly environmentally friendly kind- doesn’t always suit birds. The latest wave of energy-efficient construction and restoration has led to a “radical decline in bird and bat species that used to breed in holes and gaps in our buildings,” says artist Claudia Wegworth, explaining that the smooth façades and seamlessly flush surfaces currently in favor are uninhabitable for bird species such as swifts and swallows. As a result, Wegworth says, “birds being are evicted from our cities.” To draw attention to this subject, and in reference to the fact that poor human residents displaced by waves of gentrification often have to seek refuge in unplanned developments — shanty towns, favelas, or gecekondus — made of materials at hand, German artists Wegworth and Kalaman have adapted the idea to provide new homes for urban birds. The “Spatzenfavela” (“favela” for sparrows), a colorful complex of birdhouses cobbled together from untreated local wood and other scrap parts, then painted with solvent-free paint, was also part of their Nest in Peace exhibit organized at the 2012 plan12 Architecture Biennale in Cologne, which featured easy ways for architects and builders to integrate animals’ needs into their projects, as well as various birdhouses and bat roosts created by other artists and designers. “Our ‘Spatzenfavela’ is meant to be both a piece of art that draws attention to a serious subject and a real nestbox that works for bird species who love to breed in colonies like our house sparrows,” Wegworth says, “Our hope now is that we will find a place for it somewhere in town to encourage our sparrows to come back, while we also try to encourage other people to join us and to use their creativity to build more places like this.” Bird “favelas” can be of any shape or appearance, but to ensure they are of a suitable size and appropriate material to protect hatchlings during cold and wet weather, the artists have created construction plans and other information to distribute to the public. The artists also consulted with a biologist to make sure the boxes met the birds’ needs in terms of space and other nesting requirements. “We dream of a big guerilla action where people install spaces like this for bats and birds all over the cities,” Wegworth says. “They could be near derelict land, or parks — wherever enough food for the birds is near.” (mb) Image:© Alfred Jansen + Martin Langhorst.