Visitor center and shelter for swallows and bats

Bence Péter Tóth
FA SZIU - Faculty of Landscape architecture and urbanism

Project idea

Visitor center for swallows [shelter house for swallows] in the Zoo of Szeged
(direct translation of the article published in 17th of July at

According to the Hungarian Association of Ornithology and Nature protection (which is the biggest social organization in Hungary) the swallows most likely will be disappeared in a few years from Hungary. Some people just destroys it’s nest – some people plans shelters to them. Bence Péter Tóth certified architect is one of them. The article is about his (diploma) thesis.

The idea
The idea came from two years ago, from 2017 while I have been surveying cellar facades with swallows flying above my head. This was that moment when the idea arrived – I wanted to deal with these birds. The goal was to make connection with the swallows in architectural way. To say so to help them – although at that time I did not know that they actually need help.
I imagined my diploma thesis to have doubled value: not the standalone value of being graduated – but to offer the plan for those people who could help. For those who would wanted to help in some kind of way to these birds. I wanted to offer my plan dedicated to these birds for free which gives a real solution for a real problem we have nowadays. I offered my plan to the public – and I will in the future, too.
The beggining of planning
I visited the Hungarian Association of Ornithology and Nature protection, where dr. Gergő Halmos and Zoltán Orbán personally gave me instant help to set the program, the plan itself. My Bachelor diploma work was based on propagation of tench fishes – I though the analogy (propagation in artificial way) of this could be used at this time, too.
This analogy, this idea was refuted at this first moment.
The program could not be used here. The whole situation is much more complex. The extensive keeping of animals from the old times is not used anymore in our times. We do not have agricultiral animals in big amount kept in outdoors, which manure would attract the insects – which impacts the swallows (lack of food). The extremism of the climate because of global warming up, wearys these birds and theirs habitat, too. The human intolerance by destroying it’s nests. These factors causes the decay of the swallows.

The place and the plan
It has been 10 years by now that I have the opportunity in surveying old peasant lots and houses, civil houses and agricultural buildings in ’NTDK’ [Scientific Student Association for Folkish Architecture, anno 1912] with the association leader, István Fülöp. The more than a hundred years old union could gave me the opportunity to study the hungarian folkish architecture. Transylvania, the autonomous parts of Serbia (Vojvodina) and the Great lowlands of Hungary… The landscape, its materials and typical ’designs’ infected me – to say so. I think that this way of thinking and living, the whole conception of these will accompany me through my life – at least I trust in this.
As the member (’wanderer’) of Károly Kós Associaton I am trying to find my (architectural) way between hungarian organic architects – the shelter for swallows is the my really first attempt.
Based on the above, it is revealed that organic architectural way of thinking and the folkish ’method’ unwittingly pulled my hands while drawing.
But where could we place this building? Atctually wherever we want to. We are (people) suffering from the attacks of the mosquitos while the swallows could and would help us. Do we help them? At the bank of lake Balaton there are millions of mosquitos just like big black clouds – the first idea was this place. To be lifelike, to stay real I had to create additional functions to this sipmle ambush. It has to be a potential shelter, it has need to be a project which brings interst to its builders.
So the ambush was designed to the Zoo of Szeged (located at the southern part of Hungary, at the Great lowlands).
The manure producted by the animals of the Zoo would be granted here. The human intolerance could be reduced with an overall presentation from these typical birds at this location).
I had to design an ambush, an intimate place – intimate for human and animal, too. It had needed to be fitted, to be hidden – but to show in the same time.
We run in our times, but also seeking for a place to hide in the nature.
While having a conversation a great idea was born, which is sounds like this: ’ the organic architecture is the romanticism of our era’.
After designined the shelter for swallows I feel that both the lookout (the mass, the materials, the shape) and the function (the answer to the problem itself, relationship, the connection between human and birds) has spirituality. I hope that another ones can feel, can notice this when meets this plan. This plan is a handshake of the traditional folkish architecture and the today’s contemporary architecture for me.
The goal was definitely this.

The shelter
The brick masonry of the lowlands, the architecture methods based on soil and clay, the method of roofing with reed, whitewashed walls – they all can collaborate with nature perfectly. So the idea was to design the shelter to the bank of the old quarry from that age when it was used to extractive clay for manufacturing bricks. I slipped the building between the existed reed being at the bank of the quarry using the materials could found here: pise bricks, small sized (burned) bricks, reed for roofing and for therml insulating.
Looking at the floor map you can see a plum seed shaped layout. The quarry, the lake (lake Sancer) itself can not be walked around and not be utilized.
The goal (with the layout) is to turn people round in the builidng – to go back to that point at the end of visiting where you started your journey (because of the lack of walking around at the bank of the lake). This ’circulation’ needed to be done in the building – not outside.
The highest point of the building is where it needed to be the most: at the instructor room in the middle. Both endings (sides) of the shelter are slipping back to the reeds: the entrance is available from behind. A tried to have intimity by not letting people approach the building walking parallel by the bank of the quarry for several ten meters while arriving. People can get in from behing (in terms of the building). The whole ambush, the building was sunk underground (see sections). The more than 5 meters long eaves can garantee shelter for 2 kind of our 3 kind of swallows. The third type pf thw swallows can find shelter using the hills made especially for them. At wintertime people can study, observe those kind of birds which stays in Hungary at this time. People can also build tiny houses here for birds in all seasons.
The shining of the glassed surfaces caused by the water and the coating of the glass (principle of the web of spiders) makes the facades ’glass-friendly’ for the birds (not letting the birds fly to them by letting visible these areas).

The goal
Offering the plan to anybody who wants to help to these birds – designed with organic momentum, through folkish logic and with romantic way of thinking.

Project description

Making a sustainable building from local found natural materials (clay, reed, wood etc.) for swallows and bats.

Technical information

Brick made on site, reed got from the bank of the lake and insects from the Zoo. Designed without any plastic material.

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