Rare wild visitor

Image Catherine Anscombe

Community Wildlife Park gains new international celebrity resident on its 10th anniversary.

Ten years ago our research team, staff and students from 3D Design and Craft and Interior Architecture undertook a project to promote social cohesion and 'green building' in a community in Sussex. A spate of anti-social behaviour and quite serious unrest between different groups in the community around the village’s playing fields promoted a creative response from the Community21 research team.

May 2021 marks the tenth anniversary of the launch of the project and as if in recognition the space has become the home of a very rare White Throated Sparrow.

Having worked with local land owners, community groups, the local council and funded as part of a lottery award wild-life initiative the team undertook an experimental engagement project aimed at supporting the community to reimagine the space through collaborative creativity. The site still retains features such as an outdoor classroom built by Brighton students but the structure has recently been commandeered by the hoards of birdwatchers who have descended on the site from all over the UK hoping to catch a glimpse of this incredibly rare, feathered resident.

Making method(ologies)

The team formed a radical research methodology around den-building as a means to engage young and old alike in a conversation about how local materials may support the development of a more sustainable recreational space. They used a mix of computer aided design workshops and managed tree-felling in a neighbouring woodland. 3D Design and architectural and students then camped onsite and helped realise the community’s vision.


The space has become an essential part of the village’s recreational and educational space enjoyed by all generations, for birthdays and fund raising and so important during COVID. The project help to resolve the difference in the community groups and whilst many of the structures were designed to be refreshed and have decayed they were never vandalised. One student, James Fox, was inspired by the process and designed his own den-building kit, which won the prestigious Lexus International Design Award, two of the students went on to do masters programmes but have returned to teach at Brighton on the same course. But the community still celebrates the development of this space, which actively and cohesively provides a space for diverse age groups and abilities and equally diverse and indeed rare wildlife.