Biennale and Beyond: Joyce Hwang Brings Bat Cloud Overseas

Joey Swerdlin (B.S. Arch ’13), Sze Wan Li-Bain (B.S. Arch ‘09 and M.Arch ’11), and Robert Yoos (B.S.

School of Architecture and Planning graduates Joey Swerdlin (BS Arch ’13), Sze Wan Li-Bain (MArch ’11, BS Arch ‘09) and Robert Yoos (BS Arch '14) admire a new installation of "Bat Cloud" by Joyce Hwang at the International Architectural Biennale Rotterdam. Photo courtesy of Joyce Hwang

By Madelyn McClellan

Published July 3, 2014

From Buffalo to Europe, the restless efforts of Associate Professor Joyce Hwang in ecological advocacy in architecture are never ending.  Recently named an “Emerging Voice” from the Architectural League of New York, Hwang has brought her project “Bat Cloud” to the 2014 International Architectural Biennale Rotterdam (IABR 2014) as part of its “Urban by Nature” exhibit.

In its sixth edition, IABR was founded in 2001 based on the conviction that architecture is a public concern and must find a balance between people, planet and prosperity. Urban By Nature (2014) will expand upon the previous five Biennale editions by further addressing the need to design our future habitat with sustainable relationships across demographic, ecological and economic concerns. 

Under the subcategory of BIOTA, Hwang’s “Bat Cloud” was stationed with other ecologically-based exhibits geared toward The Urban Metabolism.  This portion of the exhibition considered the urban landscape as a complex, vast and interactive system that continuously works to meet the needs of its inhabitants. 

Hwang’s work with bats addresses exactly this. The “Bat Cloud” attempts to bring awareness and greater public visibility to bats as a critical part of our ecosystem and to integrate their existence into the urban fabric. Her project was invited to IABR 2014 based on its potential application to the design, planning and governance of our future cities. 

“I submitted my work to their call for projects last year. When the [Bat Cloud] was selected, I was expecting that maybe they would only want some images and drawings.  But instead, they asked me to produce a physical installation for the Kunsthal, which was very exciting for us,” said Hwang, who initially installed “Bat Cloud” in Buffalo’s Tifft Nature Preserve, under a canopy of trees.

UB Architecture Alumni assembling the new installation of Bat Cloud. Photo by Joyce Hwang.

School of Architecture and Planning architecture alumni assembling the new installation of Bat Cloud. Photo by Joyce Hwang

With funding from Awesome Without Borders, Hwang and three UB architecture alumni, Sze Wan Li-Bain (MArch ’11, BS Arch ‘09), Joey Swerdlin (BS Arch ’13) and Robert Yoos (BS Arch ’14), went to Rotterdam to build and install a new edition of the “Bat Cloud” for the exhibition.  The new “Bat Cloud” is intended to be hung from a cable anchored to buildings and light posts and will not have soil or plants in the pods, in contrast to the original installation in Buffalo.  

Project manager and fabricator Joey Swerdlin led the team through the assembly and hanging of the pods from the ceiling in the exhibition space, allowing visitors to walk under them while they viewed the supporting documentation mounted at eye level.

Prior to the IABR 2014, Swerdlin led Li-Bain as well as Andres Santandreu Natale (BS Arch’16) and Ian Liu (BS Arch’14) in preparation of the overseas installation.  Prior to that, still, there were numerous additional UB students, staff and alumni who contributed to the success of the original “Bat Cloud” installed in Buffalo.

The “Bat Cloud” will be up for the IABR 2014 exhibition through August 24, 2014.  Hwang has been collaborating with a Rotterdam-based architecture and urban design firm, ZUS, to re-install the “Bat Cloud” project in a public space in Rotterdam as part of an extensive three-year campaign to revitalize the Central and North Districts of Rotterdam.  The installation’s final location within Rotterdam will be announced upon the conclusion of the IABR 2014.

Hwang is also representing UB in a different part of Europe, at the Venice Architecture Biennale. She was asked to be included in the Taiwan Pavilion, curated by Jimenez Lai. Hwang will appear in a documentary highlighting the work of Taiwanese professionals within and outside Taiwan. Hwang, along with her work, will be spotlighted in a portion of the film dedicated to “Exports,” or notable professionals with Taiwanese heritage working outside the country. Taiwan is one of 40 countries represented at this year’s International Architecture Exhibition in Venice, which runs from June 7, 2014, to November 23, 2014.

Final exhibit at the International Architecture Biennale Rotterdam 2014. Photo courtesy of Joyce Hwang.

Final exhibit at the International Architecture Biennale Rotterdam 2014. Photo courtesy of Joyce Hwang

Original “Bat Cloud” Installation Credits:


Project design and fabrication manager: Sze Wan Li-Bain (MArch '11, BS Arch ’09)


Concept collaborator: Mikaila Waters (BS Arch ‘11)


Fabrication collaborators: Robert Yoos (BS Arch ’14), Molly Hogle (MArch ‘14), Duane Warren (MArch ‘15, BS Arch ’13), Shawn Lewis (BS Arch ‘14)


Installation collaborators: Matthieu Bain (MArch ‘12, BS Arch ’10), Joshua Gardner (MArch '10, BS Arch ’08), Shawn Lewis (BS Arch ‘14), Sze Wan Li-Bain, Sergio López-Piñeiro (former assistant professor), Nellie Niespodzinski (MArch '11, BS Arch ’09), Mark Nowaczyk (MArch '12, BS Arch ’10), Alex Poklinkowski (BS Arch ’14), Joseph Swerdlin (BS Arch '14), Duane Warren, Robert Yoos


Consultants: Mark Bajorek; Katharina Dittmar, UB Associate Professor of Biological Sciences