When Dutch architects started to work on a new bridge in a small town called Monster, they had two users in mind: People who would bike and walk across it, and bats.
The bridge was carefully designed to double as new wildlife habitat. “We already knew that bats were in the area, especially near the water where we were building the bridge,” says Bart Reuser, founding partner at Next Architects. “So we thought we could give them a better habitat.”
While some bridges accidentally attract bats–like a bridge in Austin, Texas, that is now home to the world’s largest urban bat colony–this one does it intentionally. “We didn’t make a single wall, but walls with space inside,” says Reuser. “There are openings where bats can enter. It’s dark and warm.”
Unlike bat houses, the slats in the bridge will provide permanent places for bats to roost. The architects consulted with a naturalist to tailor different parts of the bridge for different species of bat. While construction is still happening in the area, the bats are expected to start moving in next summer.
Reuser thinks any large infrastructure or architecture has the potential to better integrate nature. “If we do big investments, I think we should always consider the consequences–and also the chances and possibilities of it,” he says. “Sometimes by a small change…it doesn’t take much to consider the whole environment, and not only people.”