Fly By Night: A Designer’s Look at Bats in Seattle Parks

Sidney Greenslate, BLA ’21, completed this senior capstone research project and presented to the UW Landscape Architecture Department in Spring 2021.

Inspiration: Art, Science & Creativity

I was inspired to pursue this project in part by a talk given at the UW by landscape architect and designer David Buckley Borden. His playful, eye-catching installation pieces at the Harvard Forest combine science communication with keen design in the way that trained landscape architects are particularly poised to do. He encouraged the students in the audience to follow their individual interests, even if they don’t seem to fit the scope of traditional design practice, and to be bold with design concepts. I took his lecture to heart and I owe him some credit in my decision to take on this this project.

Bats occupy a strange space in our culture, even in environmentalist spaces. They are often classified as pests and as dangerous disease vectors, with little regard given for their unique biological niche and diversity. There are over 200 species of bats, which is evidence enough on its own that nature finds them valuable.

An excerpt from a zine being made by artists Sonya and Nina Montenegro (known professionally at The Far Woods) best summarizes the other-worldly, ephemeral quality of bats that enchants some, yet disturbs others:

These despised inbetweeners,
Shrouded in nighttime;
Existing on the edges –
The edges of Animal & bird,
Day & night;
The edges of Dark & light,
Earth & heaven;
Mystery, myth & superstition,
Existing in a liminal space,
That makes us uncomfortable,
In its in-betweenness.

I first began exploring bats in Seattle in Spring 2019, in an ecological design studio. Since then, with the COVID-19 pandemic, the cultural reputation of bats has taken a huge hit. I believe that landscape architects have a responsibility to the non-human life present in the landscapes they design. I found bats to be a niche worthy of exploring, since they need any positive representation they can get.

An Exercise in Pedagogy

As undergraduate students, there are limited opportunities for research on topics of personal interest in the College of Built Environments. It was important to me to challenge myself to pursue a topic I care about, create my own structure for research, and to connect that work to landscape architecture. I knew early on that I would need to provide myself with a support structure and to set the tone for the kind of work I wanted to produce.

This approach resulted in a personal contract agreement, which served as a set of guidelines for the scope of my research, explicitly outlining that I am not conducting true scientific research, but rather exploring a line of inquiry. I also established how I would treat myself and my mental health during this process, in case I began to struggle to complete work of my own volition.

I also established that the investigative approach to this work would be process-based, and less focused on a single final product. I structured the work into three main tasks: an annotated bibliography, field study sessions, and creative interpretation of findings.

Read more about Sidney’s project at

You can also view Sidney’s final presentation to the Department here.

Green New Deal Super Studio | Autumn 2020


Course Instructor

Brooke Sullivan

Course Date

Autumn 2020

Course Type

Undergraduate + Graduate Studio

The primary focus of this studio is to create ‘shovel ready’ design projects for Washington State that

  1. Decarbonize
  2. Create small businesses and job opportunities and
  3. Support social and ecological justice/democracy

In addition to providing visionary leadership around topics of the GND, this course will ask students to remove themselves as ‘the designer’ and instead, facilitate skills incorporative design progress, including compromise, communication, listening, inclusion, collaboration, and compassion.

Visit the studio website

Reef Design in an Octopus’ Garden

Course Instructors

Iain Robertson
Brooke Sullivan

Course Date

Spring 2018

Course Type

Graduate + Undergraduate Advanced Studio

Course Description

UW Landscape Architecture collaborated with Washington Scuba Alliance (WSA) to develop design options for artificial reefs where divers can observe the diversity of Puget Sound’s marine flora and fauna. The site was Redondo Beach, a small community on the boundary of Des Moines and Federal Way. The reef will be sited across approximately 4 acres of intertidal habitat at one of the most popular dive sites in the entire Puget Sound. An adjacent pier contains Highline College’s Marine Science and Technology Center (MaST), which conducts active marine research and teaching programs and has a public aquarium which is home to over 250 species of marine life. A small stream, piped and culverted for much of its length, flows into the bay at the base of the pier.

Sometimes a sweet project comes across your desk and you just can’t say “no.” This is such an opportunity. Characteristics that make the project particularly intriguing:

  • the manageable scale of the project, site and context.
  • the fact that the design will be
  • the complex of regulatory agencies, municipalities, non-profit organizations, private and public neighbors, interest groups, educational institutions and programs, (with mandates, goals, needs and aspirations that may cooperate or compete) which the designers must navigate and making sense of.’
  • the opportunity to synthesize and integrate these disparate views, goals, needs, hopes, dreams and regulations into a coherent understanding of the design possibilities and do so in a way that maximizes the opportunity for all parties to cooperate.
  • the opportunity to combine art and science in the reef design. Aus Higley, Manager of MaST speaking of the potential of design: “art is one of the best ways to teach science.”
  • the opportunity to articulate this synthesis in visually comprehensible and appealing ways and present these design ideas to disparate audiences

Masterplan for the Redondo Beach Dive Site

The studio project was featured in the September 2018 issue of Landscape Architecture Magazine.