Last edited 15 Mar 2021

Spontaneous City at Cow Tower

This Spontaneous City was constructed in a tree adjacent to the Cow Tower in Norwich.

A Spontaneous City is an architectural installation created by Jo Joelson and Bruce Gilchrist of the design collective known as London Fieldworks. The projects are meant to use architecture to illustrate the interactive connection between nature and the surrounding environment.

The Spontaneous City at Cow Tower is one in a series of birdhouses constructed in the parks around Norwich as part of the Norwich and Norfolk Festival 2011. Referred to as “a Spontaneous City open to occupation by birds and insects”, the intricate structures are meant to stimulate the imagination and the ecological consciousness of those who pass by the miniature cities. The art project also serves to support the local birds, insects and other creatures who inhabit the parks where they have been installed.

Wrapped around specially selected trees, more than 400 sturdy wooden boxes of assorted sizes and profiles are given archways, doors and perches. In some ways, the structure almost looks organic, despite being put in place by local Norwich tree surgeons for the Festival. This strategic installation process makes the pine-coloured clusters of bird and bug boxes appear to sprout from the large trunks of the host trees.

Influences for the Spontaneous City can be seen in this photograph of the interior of the Cow Tower.

In addition to the Cow Tower location, Spontaneous Cities were commissioned for Eaton Park and Waterloo Park in Norwich. Each installation interplays with the nearby architecture and showcases the connection between community engagement and environmental awareness.

The Cow Tower was built between 1398 and 1399.

“As well as being open to occupation by urban birds and insects, Spontaneous City can also be read as an allegory of population crash and dwindling biodiversity,” said the team at London Fieldworks in their artist statement.

London Fieldworks is an interdisciplinary arts practice that was formed in 2000. Their multimedia work combines architecture, sculpture, installation and film in galleries and in the landscape.

There are several other Spontaneous City installations in other parts of the UK:

--Heidi Schwartz

[edit] Related articles on Designing Buildings Wiki

[edit] External resources

Designing Buildings Anywhere

Get the Firefox add-on to access 20,000 definitions direct from any website

Find out more Accept cookies and
don't show me this again