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Public awareness and support are critical to Urban Hedgerow's success, so the group aims to create pieces that are attractive, fun and attainable.
This panel of foraged and reclaimed materials designed and built by Benjamin and Kevin Smith hangs at Flora Grubb Gardens in San Francisco. This art piece and potential habitat invites us to ask how willing we are to invite nature into our domestic landscapes, even in a subtle way.
Benjamin and collaborator Moose Curtis created an Urban Hedgerow installation at London's 2012 Chelsea Fringe Festival. It focused on building awareness of two species of a local butterfly: Vanessa cardui and Vanessa atalanta.
In an installation titled “I Love Vanessa,” Benjamin tagged countless street weeds and plants with butterfly-size tags identifying them as critical butterfly habitats. Being presented with sidewalks as hosts to the beautiful Vanessa butterfly, passersby may rethink the value of “weeds” and what they mean to animals.
Curtis power washed images of the butterflies on sidewalks and walls surrounding the installation as an additional reminder of the wild creatures that occupy managed spaces.
Check out a map of butterfly image locations. The installation will remain intact in Chelsea until the art naturally weathers away.
Many things go into the choices of locations selected for Urban Hedgerows. Public spaces are important, because they maximize exposure and enable pedestrians to take notice and ask questions. Proposed habitats in San Francisco coincide with critical paths for migratory birds.
"Reclaim Market Street!" (shown here) was created as a temporary green space in the middle of San Francisco's Civic Center. By staging a native habitat at this political and pedestrian center of San Francisco, designers, artists and plant experts were able to share their expertise and collaborate with the public on a communal stage.
Small hedgerow prototypes, such as this, enable portability.
There is still a lot left to be discovered about the lasting importance of these mini urban habitats. The ecological benefits that humans receive from native plants, bugs and insects is undeniable — pollination, decomposition and carbon removal are just a few. Benjamin believes that awareness at the personal level will determine how we affect our environments moving forward.
“The insects will very well survive without us, but we will not survive without them," she says. "All in all we are just another animal, so we should start behaving like one.” Pay attention to what is happening right around you and respect what’s already there, she says.