UCLA embarks on Year Two of Biophilia Treehouse

UCLA embarks on Year Two of Biophilia Treehouse

By   |  Aug. 28, 2020

This is an edited blog post submitted as part of the Pando Days wrap-up from the University of California, Los Angeles. We asked the UCLA team to reflect on their Pando Days experience and let us know what’s happened since the July Finale.

This is an initiative of the UCLA School of Arts and Architecture, Design Media Arts to create avian wildlife corridors in Los Angeles County, with resting, feeding and nesting sites for birds at strategic locations.

We’re focused on birds because they are indicators of the overall health of our ecosystem—especially during this sixth mass extinction, which is entirely due to human activity. 

LA county is the birdiest county in the U.S. and yet, the County is also home to the largest set of threatened and endangered animals and plants in the country.

There’s great loss of green space for birds and Angelinos alike, especially in poor, underserved and under-resourced communities.

Biophilia Treehouse addresses this environmental inequity.

We’re lucky to have the support of the UCLA Sustainability Office, which set aside land for us on campus to build the prototype of our Treehouse.

We continue to make important progress despite Covid 19, which makes it impossible to get into the studio and the labs.

In the face of that, this year we’re testing how the birds respond to the conditions we set up in the treehouse. During this stage, our work will really be to pay attention to the birds, in order to see what it is that attracts or repulses them. What are the conditions that make them feel safe and thrive? What are the things that hinder them? It’s exciting, on-the-ground work.

We’re nurturing community partnerships such as Esperanza Elementary School in Westlake. They have a garden where students learn in a hands-on, outdoor environment. We’re working to bring a treehouse into the school’s ecosystem, to strengthen what is happening there. 

We’re also working with UCLA architects and facilities to ensure that our treehouse is safe and structurally sound. An important question to answer and test is what structural materials make the most sense?

Because botanists can help us test where to plant trees and add plants into the structure of the treehouse, we’re working with the Theodore Payne Foundation for Wild Flowers and Native Plants. The specialists there provide guidance and extensive knowledge about the climate and vegetation variables of Southern California. 

Nevertheless, we’re all excited to do this work, because we have so many great and important projects this year.

We imagine Biophilia Treehouses everywhere across Los Angeles.

Our goal is to make our design available to community members who, with the help of student volunteers, will be inspired to collaborate in building and growing Biophilia Treehouses throughout Los Angeles County.

Erin Cooney is an MFA candidate in Design Media Arts at UCLA.