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Swift Code

Swifts are a species of bird that travel up from central Africa to Europe every year following the sun, rain and the insects that these bring. They start to arrive in the UK in May and as such people associate them with the coming of summer. Swift numbers in the UK have been steadily decreasing and a lack of nesting sites has been attributed as one possible cause. Newly built homes provide less opportunity for swifts to nest where as older buildings tend to have more eaves and holes that swifts like. The sculpture aims to highlight this problem and provide a home for up to 150 swifts.

The sculpture is based on a pixulated sun made of 221 pixels that act as nesting sites for the birds and has been designed so the swifts give the impression they are flying into the sun. Their entrance into their nests are often dramatic as they fly extremely fast towards the holes. Often they miss and so need space to drop and gather themselves before hitting the ground.  The sun is projected 10 metres on steel supports as swifts to give them this space. Throughout their lives they never land on the ground level as they are essentially gliders.

One third of the boxes are made for the swifts the rest are left empty, this allows the nesting sites to be staggered across the 221 pixels to assist the birds in finding their homes. Every possible element that would help the swifts was included in the design including painting each line of boxes a slightly different colour as they can see a large spectrum of colours and this could help them find their nest site. The canopy above each entrance hole had different shapes for the same reason.

The other side of the sculpture is the dark timbered rears of the swift boxes. Representing the dark side of the moon the rear of the sculpture provides homes for maternal bats as they need heat and the blackened timber and position of the sculptures rear helps to provide this. Each of the boxes is held within a complex metal grid system that provides a few centimetres of space between each box. Like a termite mound these gaps provide a natural aeration helping the sculpture from over heating.