Public Works: Insectopia on the Seine
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Public Works: Insectopia on the Seine

Are Toronto's insects adequately housed, or should we take a lesson from the French?

Public Works looks at public space, urban design, and city-building innovations from around the world, and considers what Toronto might learn from them.

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Photo courtesy of Vaulot & Dyèvre.

Who among us hasn’t looked around and thought, “What this city really needs is more affordable housing for insects.”

Well, French design firm Vaulot&Dyèvre didn’t just ponder this once-intractable problem, they went out and did something about it. In a park in Paris’ 13th arrondissement, they’ve built an all-bug housing complex.

The effort, dubbed Insectopia, is intended to foster biodiversity in urban spaces.

You might be thinking, “But surely each insect has unique domestic requirements. Ants live in hills, bees live in hives, bedbugs live in that hotel by the airport and now in my pajamas, earwigs live in my brain. Is it even possible to create an environment where all these disparate species can co-exist harmoniously?”

The answer is unclear. Although Vaulot&Dyèvre’s installations have been in place since April 2011, no reports on occupancy rates are available. And the builders themselves acknowledge that they don’t know whether insects want to live in studio apartments likely to be a destination of choice for hungry birds. But the structures themselves—agglomerations of tiny boxes mounted on sticks, resembling an artificial beehive or a condo built by drunk elves—are eye-catching.

Perhaps that’s why Vaulot&Dyèvre hint at a more high-minded purpose than a simple spider buffet, writing that they wanted to build not just a bug dorm, but something that would spark the imagination of passersby and inspire curiosity about “this tiny universe that is invisible, yet always in motion.”

So art, then. Let us be inspired.

Hat tip to Treehugger