“Large roads act as barriers on the movement of bees and wasps, especially for small species with poor dispersal ability.” Nature conservation 18: 47-59, Pettr Andersson, Anna Koffman, 11th July 2017
85-95% of the UK’s insect pollinated crops rely on wild pollinators, that equates to every third mouthful we eat, or £690 million of crops annually. They are also vital for the survival of other wild plants that in turn support so much of our wildlife. Large roads act as barriers to the movement of pollinators, especially for small species with poor dispersal. This reduces the insect’s ability to access new resource habitats and reduces their genetic pool, leaving them vulnerable to natural diseases. Three bumble bee species have become extinct in recent decades. The European Red List for Bees reports that one in ten species of wild bee face extinction, and over the past 50 years, half the bee, butterfly and moth species studied in the 2013 State of Nature Report have declined.
As part of a competition run by the RIBA for National Highways, 2A1M Studio are proposing that a planned re-design of the ubiquitous gantry structures that support our motorway signage, is used to connect our pollinator populations with resource rich habitats. While recognising the primary function of supporting road signage, the B-ARKS offer a surplus of space to provide suitable habitats for pollinators on the gantries, effectively reducing the spans that insects must negotiate.
In re-visiting the base principle of the motorway gantry, there is an opportunity to reverse the fragmentary effect the road network has had on natural habitats. Facilitating free movement of wildlife across the UK’s road network will be an important step towards the success of the EU 2020 Biodiversity Strategy.
The existing gantry system is additive, B-ARKS establishes an elegant framework within which all signage, equipment and ancillary uses are contained. This visually de-clutters the gantry and allows the overall form to maintain clarity and re-enforces a family identity. The gantry framework is constructed from lightweight steel sections and is visually permeable, allowing the overall volume to be increased while its density is reduced.
The technological context of roads and vehicles is changing rapidly. It is likely that in 10 years the gantries will be required to perform additional or alternative functions. The B-ARKS offer a surplus of flexible, cost-effective space to accommodate change, for example providing storage for clean energy harvested from the road through piezoelectric or photovoltaic technology.
Four base designs are constructed from a limited catalogue of prefabricated modules. These structures can be quickly erected and support a wide variety of extensions and adaptations.