The Vlotwateringbrug, often referred to as “the bat bridge,” by NEXT Architects is a piece of nature-centric infrastructure designed to create a habitat and safe space for bats.
Designed for both local residents and the region’s bat population. Located along the flight route of several bat species, NEXT Architects placed human needs and bat requirements on equal footing in the design process.
Bats are a vital part of the ecosystem. They consume vast amounts of insects, including some of the most damaging agricultural pests, and pollinate many essential plants in the food chain. As the Bats Conservation Trust explains:
Bats play an important role in many environments around the world. Some plants depend partly or wholly on bats to pollinate their flowers or spread their seeds, while other bats also help control pests by eating insects.
Their utility in the ecosystem is drawing increased attention due to the fact that bat populations are in steep decline due to a variety of factors; a major one being loss of habitat and nesting areas as built environments expand.
The thickness of the bridge’s north side abutment provides winter shelter for bats, and its deck and brick balustrade house them during summer. The spacing between the wooden planks beneath the bridge was designed to a dimension wide enough let bats in, but narrow enough to keep predators out.
No bat-friendly detail was overlooked: the edges of the roosting areas were given a rough finish so the bats could grip its surface easily.
The bridge, says bat expert Marcel Schillemans from the Mammal Society, is “a textbook example of how a functional object can at the same time serve nature.”
Bat Bridge Images Copyright Raymond Rutting, Illustrations by NEXT Architects