It seems that a large block of new housing has opened up in the in-demand London boroughs of Chelsea and Islington, though even experienced city dwellers would have a hard time packing their belongings into these housing developments. They are tiny apartment complexes built for birds and bugs: spontaneous cities meant to promote and increase biodiversity in the urban environment.
The tiny houses were installed by London Fieldworks, an artist collective that focuses on projects that emphasize the intersection of art, science and technology. As part of UP Projects’ Secret Garden initiative, the “Spontaneous City in the Tree of Heaven” installation seeks to add some biodiversity to the areas in which the new “housing developments” are placed. The houses, which resemble cells multiplying to take over the surfaces of trees, are meant to act as shelter and nesting spots for London wildlife while emphasizing the importance of urban green spaces.
The architecture of the more than 250 bird and bug boxes echoes the Georgian townhouses, red brick towers, and 1960s social housing developments that surround them: they feature the same modular, blocky shapes and close quarters. But these wildlife developments have been designed to be temporary and to grow with their support structure, unlike many human housing developments in London.
An interesting aspect of the project is the trees on which London Fieldworks chose to build the wildlife cities. The “tree of heaven” is actually Ailanthus altissima, an ornamental tree native to China that tends to choke out surrounding vegetation. To mount a biodiversity-creating project on a biodiversity-destroying substrate may seem strange, but the artists behind London Fieldworks believe that it adds another layer to the discussion.